Ural Federal University: Elevated Concentrations of Radon Were Found in Homes near Landfills

Scientists of the Ural Federal University and their colleagues from Nigeria found out that in residential houses in Lagos (Nigeria) located near landfills the radon concentration exceeds the UN norm (200 Bq/m3) in 20 cases out of 100. Prolonged exceedance of the average radon concentration, in turn, increases the risk of developing lung cancer by about 16%. These and other findings from the study are published in the journal Applied Radiation and Isotopes.

“Radon is the most dangerous radioactive gas in the environment. Because it comes naturally from the Earth, people are always exposed to radon. The gas easily penetrates buildings through cracks and crevices. Inhalation of radon and products of its decay indoors is up to 55% of natural human exposure, so measuring radon in different environments is important”, explains Mostafa Yuness Abdelfatah, a research engineer at the Ural Federal University Department of Experimental Physics.

Many factors influence indoor radon concentrations: the geological and geophysical characteristics of the area, the materials used to construct the building, the ventilation system, meteorological conditions and the level of radon concentration in the open air.

“It is possible that landfills are a source of bad odor, especially in the hot climates of Nigeria. Therefore, residents of nearby houses ventilate less often, which may be the reason for increased radon concentrations in houses,” Vladimir Ivanov, director of the Ural Federal University Institute of Physics and Technology, believes.

Radon actively penetrates structures through tiny holes and semi-porous materials such as cinder block and concrete.

“Unfortunately, compacting or sealing foundation slabs cannot always effectively reduce radon levels indoors. Special efforts are needed to control excessive indoor radon concentrations. In residential buildings, it is important to seal holes around sewer and water pipes, and during the construction of the house to lay a special radon (exhaust) pipe from the basement to the roof so that radon is vented into the atmosphere without penetrating into the rooms,” notes Mostafa Younes Abdelfatah.

One effective way to reduce radon concentrations indoors is to improve the ventilation of the building.

Radon levels in neighboring homes can vary and change over time, so regular measurements should be taken indoors, according to the scientists. Doing so can help determine the risks of exposure to radon.

“We have been measuring radon levels in the air, soil and water in Lagos since the beginning of the year. The findings on the impact of landfills on radon levels in nearby homes are applicable to other cities, including Russia. Based on our research the Institute of Industrial Ecology of UB RAS is planning to measure radon levels jointly with volunteers from Moscow, Yekaterinburg, and Chelyabinsk. We also have a number of research projects for Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Italy. All of them are devoted to assessing the impact of natural background radiation on human health,” the scientist says about the work.

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