Radon : poison inside your house

Radon: a danger that can affect anyone, anywhere.

Radon (isotope 222) is a rare, chemically inert, radioactive, colorless and odorless noble gas. It occurs naturally as an intermediate step in the radioactive decay of radium, itself decay product of uranium 238. Uranium is a common radioactive element on Earth, in small quantities in volcanic or granitic rocks. Radon escapes from the ground, penetrates through cracks and often stagnates in houses.

Radon is a carcinogenic gas and increases the risk of lung cancer. Therefore, radon is investigated and monitored by international health authorities (Group 1 of the International Agency for Research on Cancer).

Some areas of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region (PACA) are subject to significant natural emissions of radon. Indeed, measurements were carried out within the 6 departments between 1997 and 2000 and have revealed that 21% of measurements exceed 100 Bq/m3: 12% ranged from 100 to 200 Bq/m3, 6% from 200 to 400 Bq/m3, 2.5% from 400 to 1000 Bq/m3 and around 1% over 1000 Bq/m3. The risk of lung cancer increased by 16% per 100 Bq/m3 increase in usual radon.

The PACA region is the region in Europe, among the most influenced by the air pollution, mainly due to the road traffic increase combined with the strong hot season of the Mediterranean climate and inputs from industrialized regions such as the Po Valley and the Berre Pond. Therefore, radon has often been relegate to a position of secondary importance compared to the common air pollutants (e.g. ozone). Nevertheless, it has been established that radon, due to its specificities (indoor accumulation, odorless natural gas), represents a significant risk to be taken into account, urgently, in certain areas.

Arches-Conseils is performing field campaigns and studies to characterize this sanitary risk, both at the level of residential area (e.g. environment and habitat structure) and individual behaviors (e.g. lifestyle is also an important factor) in order to guide individuals and policy-makers on mitigation actions and strategies for radon. Thanks to an innovative methodology to analyze the relationships between health and environmental data at different spatio-temporal scales et to the combined modelling between different models adapted to the uncertainty management and the evaluation of the respective contribution, or synergistic between several cofactors (e.g. smoking, lifestyle), Arches-Conseils asseses the health impact of the radon exposure by using both approaches : fuzzy logic and Bayesian networks.

A better knowledge on health risks due to radon exposure is essential to define guidelines and risk management policies.

radon enter in the house

Linked Article

L’interface Habitat / Habitant : quand le lieu de vie est porteur de maladie - Le cas du radon en PACA  article in french

S. Pérez, P. Hebel, P. Sicard, C. Lê, G. Maignant, C. Renou, E. Cissé, P. Staccini
SHS Web of Conferences 3 02007 (2012)
DOI: 10.1051/shsconf/20120302007