Presence of radon in Luxembourg

The radiation protection department of the ministry of health started a new measurement concerning the naturally present radioactive gas radon back in January. This pilot project was completed in 200 homes in the municipality of Wahl, located in the canton of Redange in the west of the country. The municipality’s authorities were involved in the process. So called dosimeters were installed in the concerned homes and recollected after three months.

The gas that is naturally present in our environment is the result of the disintegration of uranium. It finds its way through cracks in the rocks and when surfacing, it can concentrate especially in cellars without concrete floors. This can lead to very high concentrations being measured in such places.

Radon concentration per canton

Good testing ground

Wahl is a good testing ground for these measurements, as two different rock layers meet in its area. Further, there are traditional family homes as well as new buildings to be found. After the measurement phase of three months, the dose of radiation could be determined.

Estimations are that approximately 1000 homes in Luxembourg could be showing a dose of over 1000 Becquerel (Bq) per cubic meter of air. A dose this high could potentially lead to illnesses.

“Up to 20 cases of lung cancer per year could possibly be explained by the presence of radon”, according to Minister of Health Lydia Mutsch. Radon could in this case prove to be the second reason for lung cancer after smoking.

Radon atlas and preventive measures

The measurements that have been collected are now being assembled in a radon atlas. This atlas is supposed to give an overview of the entire country. Based on the information from this atlas, Luxembourg will be setting up a national action plan in accordance with an EU-directive requiring such a plan by February 2018. Concerned homes have already received information about this back in July.

In average, the measurements showed concentrations of 126 to 263 Bq per cubic meter of air. However, in some places the results showed doses of over 1000 Bq/m3. The radiation protection department recommends preventive measures starting from concentrations above 600 Bq. Such preventive measures include the complete isolation of the basement floor as well as the installation of ventilation. These measures will partly be subsidized by the government. Home owners in areas that are at risk will shortly receive information by the ministry of health. Questions can be directed to the ministry as well.