It is odourless and colourless and can seep up into buildings through the foundation.
In Norway, indoor radon is considered the most frequent cause of lung cancer after smoking. Each year, approximately 300 people die from radon-related lung cancer, according to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority. The corresponding figure in the USA is estimated to over 20 000 annually, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency .
Radiation researchers with a practical approach
Bjørn M. Sundal and Erlend Bolle (Photo: Siw Ellen Jakobsen ) Thanks to a small research-based company located in Oslo measuring the concentration of radon is about to become much less complicated than before. Corentium AS’s nine partners are physicists and engineers with experience working with radiation issues in various research environments. Many of them have doctoral degrees in the subject and several have been associated with CERN, the world’s largest research centre for particle and nuclear physics.
“After having realised how great a health hazard radon gas actually is, we set out to develop a device that could indicate in a simple manner if the concentration of radon in a building is so high high that it requires measures to offset the threat of cancer,” explain Erlend Bolle and Bjørn M. Sundal from Corentium.
They have come up with a product they are confident will function well on a technical level, and is straightforward enough for absolutely anyone to use.
The measuring device is designed for normal private dwellings, office buildings and institutions.
From film to wireless measurement
Radon concentration is currently gauged using alpha track detectors. The detector consists of a film housed in a plastic container which is placed in a room where radon radiation is to be measured. Kits containing a set of two detectors are available on the market. The detectors must remain in the rooms under examination for two months before being sent in for analysis. The result is subsequently reported back as an average radon concentration value calculated for the entire year.
The measuring device is designed normal private dwellings, office buildings and institutions.
The new alternative is a wireless measuring device which operates rather like a digital thermometer. Users will be able to buy it in shops or via the Internet, take it home and move it around to the various rooms where they want to measure the concentration of radon. After just a couple of days they will get an indication of how much radon gas is in the building.
New Norwegian regulations concerning radiation protection entered into force on 1 January. All child-care facilities, schools and leased dwellings must undergo measurement of radon concentration by the end of 2014.
Previously, an annual exposure of 200 becquerels per cubic metre was considered acceptable. Now, however, this is seen as a definitive upper limit. The threshold in Norway for triggering countermeasures has been set at 100 becquerels.
All the Nordic countries have passed – or are in the process of adopting – legislation requiring radon measurement. But radon is also a big problem in countries such as Austria, Switzerland, Germany and the USA.
The radon monitor is expected to be ready for production in May-June 2012.
Public and private financial backing
The research project “Radon Monitoring and Surveillance System for Dwellings and Workplaces” is a collaborative effort between Corentium AS, SINTEF Building and Infrastructure and the Department of Physics at the University of Oslo. The project will be concluded at the end of 2011.
The Research Council of Norway has contributed to the development of the product via funding under the User-driven Research based Innovation (BIA) programme. Key funding has also been obtained from Innovation Norway.