Numerous studies worldwide have shown that radon, a natural radioactive gas that seeps into homes in some regions, is the second leading factor (after smoking) in causing people to develop lung cancer. This has now also been confirmed by a study carried out in Torrelodones, Madrid, and Stei, in Romania, by researchers from the University of Cantabria and the Romanian Babes-Bolyai University, and which has been published recently in the journal Science of the Total Environment.
The authors estimated the death rate due to lung cancer attributable to radon and smoking in the areas studied between 1994 and 2006, using population data from the National Statistics Institute (INE), and data on radon exposure conditions and related risks taken from European epidemiological studies. The result was double that which would have been expected based on a relative risk report produced in 2006 for the whole of Europe on cancer incidence and mortality."The study shows that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking, as has also been shown by many other studies carried out over the years in various parts of the world", Carlos Sainz, co-author of the study and a researcher for the Ionizing Radiation Group at the University of Cantabria, tells SINC.
WHO reduces recommended radon limits
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had previously recommended not exceeding 1.000 becquerels (Bq – the unit used to measure radioactive activity) of radon per cubic metre inside homes. However, last week, the WHO released a guide on this subject, in which it sets a new limit of 100 Bq/m3. The Torrelodones study shows that radon in more than half of the homes there is in excess of this amount.
Sainz points out that radon is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas generated by the decay of uranium-238 (a natural radioactive element present in all rocks and soil in varying degrees). "It is much more abundant in granite areas, such as Torrelodones and other areas in the west of the Iberian Peninsula, such as parts of Galicia, Salamanca and Cáceres", explains the expert.
The study also analysed radon levels in Stei, an area in Transylvania, Romania, where there are old uranium mines, and where the incidence of lung cancer has been shown to be 116.82% higher than estimates. Radon levels of up to 2,650 Bq/m3 have been recorded in some homes.
Ventilation and barriers against radon
Radon gas is emitted by the subsoil and seeps into houses – to a greater or lesser degree depending upon the permeability of the ground – through the pores and cracks in garages and basements. This radioactive element accumulates to a greater extent in single family homes and ground floor flats than in those located higher up in apartment blocks.
In order to address the problem, in addition to regularly checking levels of this gas, the experts suggest ventilating cellars and basements with extractor fans (opening windows alone may not be sufficient, depending on the levels of the gas). The construction of architectural barriers that are impermeable to radon is also recommended, above all in newly-built houses.
C. Sainz, A. Dinu, T. Dicu, K. Szacsvai, C. Cosma, L.S. Quindós. "Comparative risk assessment of residential radon exposures in two radon-prone areas, Stei (Romania) and Torrelodones (Spain)". Science of the Total Environment 407(15): 4452-4460, 2009
SINC | EurekAlert!
Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung
High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
24.10.2016 | Life Sciences
24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy