Follow-up study on indoor radon levels in Irish schools after a National School Survey and remediation programme

  • Gillian Gunning School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  • Marta Fuente School of Physics, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
  • Robert Gunning School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  • Stephanie Long Environmental Protection Agency, Clonskeagh Square, Dublin, Ireland
  • Eric Finch School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  • Mark Foley School of Physics, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland
Keywords: radon, schools, radon awareness

Abstract

Background: A National Survey of Radon in Irish Schools was carried out by the Department of Education and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (formerly the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland) between 1998 and 2004. Then, a remediation programme was developed and implemented in the schools with elevated radon levels.

Objectives: To determine the durability of the remediation systems 10–17 years post-installation and to study the effect of radon awareness on follow-up programmes, radon retests were performed in 16 schools that had some form of remediation implemented.

Design: The schools were chosen based on the data of the National Survey for Irish Schools and the post-remediation survey. A total of 276 rooms were tested for radon using CR-39 etched track detectors supplied by the EPA. Short questionnaires were given to the school principals to gather information about the level of radon awareness, remediation maintenance and retesting policies.

Results: An increasing trend in the radon concentration with time was found in some schools. Potential factors contributing to this rise are lack of maintenance, lack of follow-up testing programmes and knowledge lost due to staff turnover. The results showed that 26% of the rooms which had remediation installed had risen to above the Department of Education’s reference level for schools of 200 Bq/m3 again and 10% to above 400 Bq/m3. Through case studies and questionnaires, radon awareness in schools was observed to be correlated with an ability to maintain radon concentrations below the reference level. Although the National Survey of Radon in Irish Schools is to be commended for its exhaustive completeness, many schools in this project were unaware of the remediation system installed. Only 15% of the schools in this study remember or have records of regularly checking or servicing their remediation systems.

Conclusions: Retesting for radon is crucial in indicating where remediation methods are less effective or have failed. A follow-up programme to retest for radon and to ensure maintenance of remediation systems should be implemented.

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Published
2022-03-04
How to Cite
GunningG., FuenteM., GunningR., LongS., FinchE., & FoleyM. (2022). Follow-up study on indoor radon levels in Irish schools after a National School Survey and remediation programme. Journal of the European Radon Association, 3. https://doi.org/10.35815/radon.v3.7705
Section
Special issue - European Radon Week 2020