Are manta rays dangerous

Radioactive radiation in the home: you should know that

by Peter Carstens
Around 2000 people die in Germany every year from a gas that hardly anyone knows - but occurs everywhere. We answer the most important questions

What is radon

Radon is a so-called noble gas that occurs all over the world. It is created when uranium naturally occurring in the soil decays. The element radon is chemically unstable, quickly decays and emits radioactive radiation. That makes it problematic for human health.

How harmful is the gas?

The gas itself is not harmful to health. What makes radon dangerous are its decay products, which attach to the smallest particles in the air, such as water droplets. If they are inhaled with these, they continue to break down in the lungs and emit radiation in the process. This radiation can damage cells in the lungs, causing cancer.

Experts estimate that excessive radon intake is the second most common cause of lung cancer in Germany after smoking. According to the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), radon may even be the most important cause of non-smokers. Around 2000 people die every year as a result of the invisible radiation.

Where in Germany is the pollution particularly high?

There are large regional differences in radon levels in the soil; For an initial assessment, it is worth taking a look at the BfS radon maps. While the concentrations in the north German lowlands are generally rather low, the low mountain ranges, the Alps and the federal states of Saxony, Thuringia and northern Bavaria show higher values.

However, this regional overview hardly allows any conclusions to be drawn about the actual pollution in-house. This can vary greatly from one property to the next and also depends on the structural conditions. When in doubt, you always have to measure.

Which houses are particularly at risk?

A first clue for a possibly high radon exposure is a look at the corresponding map of the BfS, which shows areas that show the radon levels in buildings (not in the ground). The average load in common rooms is 50 Becquerel per cubic meter of room air. However, values ​​of more than 1000 Becquerel per cubic meter are rarely measured.

In addition to the region, the way the house is built is important for radon exposure. If there is no continuous concrete floor slab, more gas can penetrate. Inadequate sealing against the ingress of moisture, poorly sealed line guides, gaps and cracks also offer entry ports for the gas.

Why should one be careful when working in the basement?

The BfS advises against working permanently in the basement - unless the radon exposure has been measured beforehand. Radon from the surrounding soil can penetrate through leaks in the floor slab, in the masonry or at pipe connections, especially in basement rooms that are below the surface of the earth - and accumulate. "Radon concentrations are sometimes reached in basement rooms that are long-term health hazards," said Bernd Hoffmann, head of the Radon department at the BfS, to Wirtschaftswoche.

Can I measure the radon exposure myself?

The level of radon concentrations in buildings varies widely. The average annual value in common rooms in Germany is 50 Becquerel per cubic meter, but more than 1000 Becquerel per cubic meter is possible, but rarely occurs.

A reliable determination of the radon exposure is only possible with a measuring device. For this purpose, the BfS recommends so-called passive detectors, also known as nuclear track dosimeters. The BfS provides a list of quality-checked providers (under the menu item “Where can I get measuring devices?”). These are small plastic containers, inside of which the decay products of radon leave traces on a detector film. The detectors are sent back to the provider and evaluated after three to twelve months. According to the BfS, such a measurement costs between 30 and 50 euros.

What action can you take?

If the indoor radon concentration is too high, you should take action. An immediate measure is regular ventilation in the affected rooms; but ventilation alone is usually not enough. In addition to sealing the cellar and the doors to adjacent rooms, suctioning off the radon-containing cellar air is also an option. However, such measures must be planned and carried out by specialist staff in order to ensure success.

Anyone who builds in areas with high levels of radon pollution - the so-called radon precautionary areas such as the Bavarian district of Wunsiedel - is even legally obliged to implement additional protective measures during construction from this year. In future, employers will be required to measure in such regions.