Radon: a project for the protection of buildings and the public

Radon is a natural, odourless, colourless radioactive gas derived from the decay of uranium and radium present in the earth's crust, and particularly in granite and volcanic rocks.  It is diffused in air and it collects in specific parts of buildings due to the confinement effect.  Radon is the second most important cause of irradiation after medical exposure.  It is recognised by CIRC as a certain lung carcinogen.

The RADPAR (RADon Prevention and Remediation) program was started last summer for a three-year period and is coordinated by the University of Macedonia.  It brings together 19 organisations in 15 European countries including CSTB for France.

Radon, a European priority

The RADPAR research program was set up to improve prevention and remediation strategies currently in use, and it has set itself the objective of making a precise evaluation of the health impact of exposure to radon on populations and developing communication strategies about the risk related to exposure to radon.  It will propose technology testing procedures, and will evaluate the cost effectiveness of prevention and remediation strategies in the European Union.  Professional training on the measurement of radon, prevention and remediation in buildings is an aspect that will not be forgotten.

Evaluation of protection techniques

CSTB will direct the "Evaluation of protection techniques against radon" work group, one of the seven groups in this research program.  It is aiming firstly at evaluating any conflicts that might arise between energy savings and reduction of exposure to radon.  This part will be set up following the identification of energy saving techniques (particularly by measurements and studies on passive houses) and their influence on exposure to radon.

Test protocols for technologies involved in the protection of buildings will be determined later.  A set of systems is currently available on the market, and for example many manufacturers have developed membranes to block the diffusion of radon.  "CSTB has a genuine role to play in the objective and technological assessment of these products so that harmonised protocols can be set up across Europe," says Bernard Collignan, CSTB engineer and manager of the work group.  Finally, the production of common professional training systems to measure radon, to prevent its diffusion and provide remedies for it will conclude the work done by this work group.  The objective will be to define tools that can be used to develop professional skills.

"Contributing to this type of research program is extremely interesting;  the objective is to share and collect knowledge and assure that the majority of countries can benefit from the progress made in a few", says Bernard Collignan.