Follow-up study on indoor radon levels in Irish schools after a National School Survey and remediation programme
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.
- World Health Organization (2009). Handbook on indoor radon. A public health perspective. Geneva: WHO Press.
- NRCS (2019). National radon control strategy year 4 report. Technical report. Dublin: EPA publication.
- Hung LC, Goggins J, Fuente M, Foley M. Characterisation of specified granular fill materials for radon mitigation by soil depressurisation systems. Construct Build Mater 2018; 176: 213–27. doi: 10.1016/j.conbuildmat.2018.04.210
- Hung LC, Goggins J, Fuente M, Foley M. Investigation of sub-slab pressure field extension in specified granular fill materials incorporating a sump-based soil depressurisation system for radon mitigation. Sci Total Environ 2018; 637: 1081–97. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.04.401
- Fuente M, Rábago D, Goggins J, Fuente I, Sainz C, Foley M. Radon mitigation by soil depressurisation case study: radon concentration and pressure field extension monitoring in a pilot house in Spain. Sci Total Environ 2019; 695: 133746. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.133746
- Fuente M, Muñoz E, Sicilia I, Goggins J, Frutos B, Foley M. Investigation of gas flow through soils and granular fill materials for the optimisation of radon soil depressurisation systems. J Environ Radioact 2019; 198: 200–9. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2018.12.024
- Hung LC, Goggins J, Meier P, Monahan E, Foley M. An investigation of a passive opened top-end pipe as an alternative solution for passive soil depressurisation systems for indoor radon mitigation. Sci Total Environ 2020; 748: 141167. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141167
- Gunning GA, Murray M, Long SC, Foley MJ, Finch EC. Inter-comparison of radon detectors for one to four week measurement periods. J Radiol Protect 2016; 36(1): 104. doi: 10.1088/0952-4746/36/1/104
- Fuente M, Rabago D, Herrera S, Quindos L, Fuente I, Foley M, et al. Performance of radon monitors in a purpose-built radon chamber. J Radiol Protect 2018; 38: 1111–27. doi: 10.1088/1361-6498/aad969
- Synnott H, Fennell G, Pollard D, Colgan PA, Hanley O, O’Colmain M, et al. Radon in Irish primary and post-primary schools. The results of a national survey. Technical Report RPII-04/2. Dublin: Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland; 2004.
- Synnott H, Hanley O, Fenton D, Colgan PA. Radon in Irish schools: the results of a national survey. J Radiol Protect 2006; 26(1): 85–96. doi: 10.1088/0952-4746/26/1/005
- Synnott H, Hanley O, Fenton D, Colgan PA. Radon remediation in Irish schools. Health Phys 2007; 92(1): 50–7. doi: 10.1097/01.HP.0000234038.25522.98
- Stationery Office (2002). Radon in existing buildings. Corrective options. Technical report. Dublin: Department of the Environment and Local Government, Stationery Office.
- Stationery Office (2000). Radiological Protection Act, 1991 (ionising radiation) order. Statutory Instrument 125 of 2000. Dublin: Department of Public Enterprise. Government Publications Office.
- Zeeb H. International Radon Project. Survey on radon guidelines, programmes and activities. Technical Report WHO/HSE/RAD/07.01. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2007.
- EURATOM. Council directive 2013/59/EURATOM of 5 December. Office J Eur Union (No L13) Official Journal of the European Union 2013.
- National Radon Control Strategy. Report. Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. Dublin: EPA publication; 2014.
- Sources and effects of ionizing radiation, annex B. Report to the General Assembly, with Scientific Annexes. United Nations: United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR); 1993.
- Clouvas A, Xanthos S, Takoudis G. Indoor radon levels in Greek schools. J Environ Radioact 2011; 102: 882–5. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2011.05.001
- Fennell GM, Mackin JS, Madden A, McGarry AT, Duffy JT, O’Colmain M, et al. Radon in dwellings. The Irish national radon survey. Technical Report RPII-02/1. Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland. Dublin: EPA publication; 2002.
- Organo C, Murphy, P. The Castleisland radon survey – follow-up to the discovery of a house with extremely high radon concentrations in County Kerry (SW Ireland). J Radiol Protect 2007; 27(3): 275–85. doi: 10.1088/0952-4746/27/3/002
- Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (DEHLG). Building regulation 1997, technical guidance document C – site preparation and resistance to moisture. Technical report. Dublin: Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government; 1997.
- Milner J, Shrubsole C, Das P, Jones B, Ridley I, Chalabi Z, et al. Home energy efficiency and radon related risk of lung cancer: modelling study. BMJ 2014; 348: f7493. doi: 10.1136/bmj.f7493
- Collignan B, Le Ponner E, Mandin C. Relationships between indoor radon concentrations, thermal retrofit and dwelling characteristics. J Environ Radioact 2016; 165: 124–30. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvrad.2016.09.013