New information on the radon situation in social welfare housing units
Concentrations of radioactive radon gas higher than the reference value* have been found in the indoor air of housing and healthcare units of elderly, disabled and mental health rehabilitees. The matter was investigated in a joint campaign of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, Valvira, regional authorities and municipal health protection authorities.
The Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) started to investigate the radon situation in social welfare units when high radon concentrations were found in the radon monitoring of workplaces, for example, in the offices of housing units and employees' cafés.
However, the situation of the living quarters was not known. They are private homes, and the people living in the healthcare units may not know how to demand radon measurements. In these units, radon monitoring is the responsibility of the health protection authority. The radon monitoring of workplaces is the responsibility of STUK.
In the authorities' campaign, radon concentrations higher than the reference value* were found in 60 housing units in 2019–2021. During the campaign, around a quarter of these were able to bring radon concentrations down to the reference values.
Senior Inspector Tuukka Turtiainen from the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority says that the results of the campaign show that there has been insufficient information about the radon situation in housing units. Already during the campaign, information on the importance of measuring radon concentrations was shared with municipalities and healthcare units.
Campaign impeded by COVID-19
In the campaign organised by STUK and Valvira, which was partly funded by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, the municipalities sent requests for specification to approximately 1,500 healthcare units around Finland. The campaign received 684 responses concerning the radon measurement situation. Due to the COVID-19 situation, among other things, it was not possible to take the measurements everywhere and a considerable number of measurement results of especially elderly care units are missing.
Tuukka Turtiainen reminds that even if the radon values had been elevated, no one has been in acute danger due to the situation. However, living in an apartment with a high level of radon for years increases the chance of developing lung cancer. It is therefore important to measure the radon concentration and, if necessary, to reduce it.
- *The reference value is the radon concentration which is used by the authorities to instruct, if necessary, that radon exposure must be reduced in homes, public places and workplaces. Since radon is a natural radioactive substance and excessive concentration of radon is not intentionally produced in the indoor air, there is no limit value or a maximum value set for it. Too-high radon concentration is always an unpleasant surprise.
Senior Inspector Tuukka Turtiainen, tel. +358 9 759 88
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