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!
Multi-year study finds 'hotspots' of ammonia over world's major agricultural areas
17.03.2017 | University of Maryland
Diabetes Drug May Improve Bone Fat-induced Defects of Fracture Healing
17.03.2017 | Deutsches Institut für Ernährungsforschung Potsdam-Rehbrücke
The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
28.03.2017 | Life Sciences
28.03.2017 | Information Technology
28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy