Radon in the home office: The cancer danger from the cellar!

31.10.2021 13:54

In the Corona crisis, more and more employees are taking advantage of the opportunity to do their job in a home office. But the Federal Office for Radiation Protection in Germany(BfS) warns: Especially in basement rooms, high radon concentrations can occur, the risk of cancer increases!

Radon in the home office: Is radon in the basement harmful to health?

Moving the workplace to the basement seems to be a viable solution for many employees to work from home. However, the Federal Office for Radiation Protection warns against a hasty relocation of the office to the basement, because there lurks the radioactive Radon, emitting alpha radiation as it decays and damaging lung tissue, increasing the risk of lung cancer.

Working permanently in the basement increases the risk of cancer

First it was the Economy Week, which warned against moving the home office to the basement. Bernd Hoffmann, head of the radon department of the BfS, advised in an interview against relocating the home office to the basement, as radon concentrations can arise there that could endanger health in the case of permanent exposure. Radon occurs wherever there is Uranium present in the soil. During the decay of uranium and its daughter products radon is formed, which rises through the ground and accumulates in cellars and vaults.

Radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer

Up up to 2000 deaths in this country were caused by radon, according to the Federal Office for Radiation Protection. Radon would thus be one of the most frequent causes of lung cancer. For many non-smokers the most frequent cause of lung cancer, according to the Authority. Therefore, employees and self-employed persons who plan to have their office in the basement, should first determine the radon concentration. Radon maps provide an initial way to do this, to get an approximate overview. Ultimately, however only a radon measurement can bring the certainty whether in the cellar a radon radon danger.

There is radon in my basement, what can I do about it?

At first once you should carry out a radon measurement. For this purpose there are different measuring methods available. Passive dosimeters work with a plastic film, which registers the radioactive decay of the radon. After the measurement, the dosimeter is sent to a specialist laboratory laboratory, which evaluates the film. Faster you get your measurement results with an electronic radon meter. The values are displayed after only a few hours. With a subsequent long-term measurement, you can also be sure of how high the annual average radon concentration is.

How high can the radiation exposure be in the home office?

There is no limit value for radon, but there is a reference value, which is 300 Becquerels per cubic meter. Studies have shown that the risk of lung cancer increases from average radiation level of 100-200 Becquerel per cubic meter. The reference value of 300 Bq/m3 is anchored in the Radiation Protection Act and applies to all indoor work and recreational rooms indoors. The WHO goes even further, and recommends that an annual average value of 100 Bq/m3 should not be exceeded.

Radon in the basement: how to get rid of the gas?

Ventilate basement

A sensible measure is regular ventilation, especially in the basement, but also in the rest of the building.

Radon suction

If ventilation is not an option, exhaust systems can help move the gas out of the building.

Seal doors

To prevent the gas from rising into living areas, doors and piping in the basement should be sealed.

Radon safe building

In new private construction, building owners must ensure that measures are taken to prevent radon from entering the building.

Seal entry paths

To prevent radon from entering the building, radon entry pathways, such as cracks and crevices in the masonry, should be sealed.

Refurbish building

Old buildings are particularly affected by radon. Radon remediation can help protect tenants and owners from radiation.



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