Ultraviolet radiation and radon monitoring and communication
The purpose of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority’s (STUK’s) operations is to protect people, society, the environment and future generations from the harmful effects of radiation. In addition to the supervision work, this includes the objective of increasing people’s awareness of the health effects of radiation. Risk-related communication aims, on the one hand, to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure by influencing people's behaviour, to increase awareness of radiation exposure and, on the other hand, to reduce unnecessary fear of radiation.
In 2022, STUK actively communicated about the radiation sources that most commonly expose Finns; the ultraviolet radiation from the sun (UV) and radon in indoor air.
UV communication increases knowledge and influences attitudes
The increased risk of skin cancer caused by UV radiation can be significantly reduced by changing people’s behaviour and attitude towards sunbathing. For this reason, STUK has been campaigning in the spring for more than 15 years by organizing a press conference with the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the Cancer Society of Finland to highlight the importance of protection against UV radiation. The aim of the UV campaign has been to raise public awareness and influence the UV behaviour of the population, so that people would recognize the increased risk of skin cancer associated with excessive UV exposure and be able to reduce the risk by their own behaviour.
With the multi-year #Suniho communication campaign, STUK has worked with its partners, the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the Cancer Society of Finland, to influence the attitudes of young people, especially young men, towards sunbathing and tanning. The campaign has created measures particularly to target groups with the highest risk behaviour, attitude challenges or lack of information on UV radiation. The aim of the campaign has been to increase young people's awareness of sun protection options (clothing, shade, cream) and to influence young people's attitudes towards sunbathing and the glorification of tanning.
In 2022, the campaign was highlighted in a variety of social media channels. UV information and material were also shared in May 2022 during the authorities' “Nuku Rauhassa” safety days in Helsinki. Information on how young summer workers working outdoors should be instructed to protect themselves from the sun was also sent to 15 of Finland's largest municipalities.
In addition to efficient communications, STUK supervised sunbeds that utilize UV radiation to tan the skin. Regulatory control of sunbed devices and facilities is carried out in co-operation with the municipal health protection authorities. Health inspectors audit the facilities as part of the regulatory control pursuant to the Health Protection Act and submit a report on their findings to STUK for decision-making, which decides whether the findings cause any action. In addition, STUK carries out its own inspections where necessary. Altogether 29 inspections of sunbed facilities were carried out by municipal health protection authorities in 2022. In addition, seven sunbed facilities were supervised on the basis of STUK’s own monitoring. In 42% of the places of use inspected, no shortcomings were found, but in 58% there were shortcomings either in the presence of the person in charge, instructions for radiation safety or use, timers of the equipment, availability of eye protection or lamps of the sunbed equipment.
Radon monitoring and communication
In 2022, the National Radon Register recorded more than 8,000 radon measurements from more than 2,000 workplaces. The annual average radon concentration was higher than the reference level of 300 Bq/m³ in approximately 18% of the measured workplaces. In addition, the RATPA project investigated the radon exposure of Finns in workplaces. Based on the results, more than 30,000 workers in Finland are exposed to radon concentrations above the reference level. It is therefore important to increase knowledge, both about radon in general and about its measurement and reduction in indoor air.
In 2022, the radon awareness of employers and population was increased by, for example, releases, newsletters, social media publications and radon-related events. STUK organized a webinar on radon and a day-long radon mitigation course for all interested parties in the autumn. Towards the end of the year, STUK also organized, in co-operation with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, a webinar on reducing the health risks of UV radiation and indoor radon for those involved in the municipalities’ health promotion work and other interested in the topic.
STUK’s radon communications aims to remind workplaces and employees how reliable radon measurements are carried out. There are several companies marketing radon measurements, and not all the service providers have been properly or professionally carrying out the measurements. There are also competent and reliable radon mitigation companies on the market. STUK's message is that reliable radon measurements cannot be performed as rapid tests and that the living areas to be measured must be measured comprehensively, i.e. with a sufficient number of radon measurement boxes. In November, STUK and the University of Tampere published a new study that estimated that 100–170 lung cancers could be prevented annually in Finland if radon concentrations in all dwellings could be reduced to a very low level (25 Bq/m3).