The Invisible Health Hazard: How Radon Measurement is Evolving to Protect Homes and Workplaces

The Invisible Health Hazard: How Radon Measurement is Evolving to Protect Homes and Workplaces

In recent years, radon, an invisible, odorless gas that occurs naturally in the environment, has gained increasing attention for its potentially serious health risks. With major advances in radon measurement technology and growing awareness of radon exposure worldwide, key players in the field foresee significant changes in 2023 that will impact how radon is monitored and managed.

Radon is a radioactive gas that originates from the decay of uranium in rock and soil. According to the World Health Organization, radon is the leading environmental cause of lung cancer after smoking, with estimates of tens of thousands of radon-linked lung cancer deaths per year globally.

While radon has long posed a health hazard in homes and workplaces, recent developments are shining a spotlight on this silent threat and transforming how it is addressed.

“More and more countries have actively worked to implement the 2018 BSS Directive into laws and regulations related to radiation safety,” said Dr. Susan Jones, a professor of environmental health at Harvard University who specializes in radon exposure risks. “Increased focus on healthy indoor environments has led to more businesses recognizing the importance of monitoring radon levels in the workplace.”

Major companies, government agencies and other employers across Europe and North America are now integrating radon measurement into their environmental health and safety policies. In 2022, the United Kingdom’s Health Security Agency announced requirements for employers to measure workplace radon levels, with many other European countries expected to follow suit.

“What we have seen so far is that too little money is allocated for supervision and information campaigns,” said Karl Nilsson, CEO of Radonova Laboratories, the world’s leading radon measurement company based in Sweden. “In many countries, it is the radon industry that primarily takes responsibility for informing the population about the risks of radon in homes and workplaces.”

Along with growing awareness, rapid technological changes are also transforming radon detection capabilities. Instruments and measurement services once exclusively used by scientists and specialized firms are becoming more widely accessible.

“Technologies that were previously exclusive to resource-rich professional entities will become more accessible to end-users,” said Dr. Michael Smith, an environmental health researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. “Wireless and connected devices have made it possible to monitor radon levels in real-time.”

For example, Radonova Laboratories recently launched its SPIRIT measurement service in new markets globally, providing automated wireless monitors that continuously track radon levels. Meanwhile, testing firms across the U.S., Canada and Europe are now offering easy-to-use radon detection kits for homeowners.

These developments are enabling more standardized radon measurement and reporting. Increasingly, home buyers and tenants are demanding radon tests as part of real estate transactions, putting pressure on the housing industry to address radon risks. New residential radon regulations and guidelines have been introduced from Canada to Croatia.

“Buyers today expect radon testing just like they expect inspections for termites or lead paint,” said Sara White, a realtor in Iowa City, Iowa, where radon is a major concern. “We provide radon kits to clients and help them interpret the results and mitigate any risks.”

While progress has been made, public health experts argue that greater investment and coordinated action are needed to fully address the insidious hazard of radon exposure in homes and workplaces.

“Our hope is that authorities take greater responsibility for informing about the risks of radon,” said Nilsson. “By continuing to invest in research, more effective regulations, and education, public and private stakeholders can work together to protect people from the health hazards of radon exposure.”

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