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New project will develop an automatic system for controlling radon indoors

An automatic and affordable system for monitoring radon indoors will be developed in the frame of the CARE project. The system, which can be controlled through an 'app' in the smart-phone, will have an easy-to-use version for homes and another for big installations.

 

Radon can especially accumulate in underground spaces, such as subterranean car parks or cellars (© sxc/ Freepik)Normally, radon is the main natural radiation human being is exposed, according to some sources it is half of the total. Usually, exposure happens by inhalation in non ventilated buildings. Nevertheless, not many people are aware of this problem. Some years ago, regulations of radiological protection referred only to artificial radioactivity as natural radiation was considered negligible or too little to worry about it.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) has been warning, for some years, about the risks of natural radiation. Several epidemiologic studies have found a correlation between radon exposure and lung cancer. Gas radon exposure is, as a matter of fact, the second cause of lung cancer after smoking tobacco.

Now, a Spanish research project will develop a system for controlling radon levels and, depending on the levels detected, to automatically adapt the conditioning air system. The partners of the project are the Institut de Microelectrònica de Barcelona (IMB-CNM) of the CSIC, the  Santiago de Compostela University, the companies Alibava Systems, Sensing & Control (S & C), ATI Sistemes and Radiansa Consulting.

Several epidemiologic studies have found a correlation between radon exposure and lung cancer

The project CARE has just started and will be funded by the Spanish calling “Retos-Colaboración”, in the frame of the 2013-2016 national program for scientific research and developement (Plan Nacional).

Measure levels every 30 minutes

Radon levels indoors can be reduced with good ventilation, just opening windows.  But this is not always done when necessary. Reasons can vary:  either because users are not aware of the radon levels or because it is a basement or underground, or because it is not possible to open the windows in big buildings and the air conditioning system is a closed-circuit...   Also, modern houses have more isolating windows and doors, in order to save energy, which means more chances for radon accumulation.

There are some commercial sensors for radon, but in some cases there are very sophisticated and expensive.  In other cases, there are simple air-collectors that after several days have to be taken to a specialized laboratory to be analyzed. The latter sensors are useful to know about the existence of radon emissions but don’t offer a real-time control.

The goal is to have a system that automatically reacts adjusting the air-conditioning system to reduce radon levels

To have a real-time control, scientists will develop a sensor based on silicon technology as well as a radon monitor to measure the levels every half an hour. Both will be complemented with a system for managing the information from the monitor and connected to a smart air-conditioning system.  The goal is to have a system that constantly controls the radon levels and that automatically reacts adjusting the air-conditioning system to reduce radon levels when necessary.

The system will be controlled through an app in the smart-phone, and  will have an easy-to-use version for homes and a more complete version for big installations (more than a thousand square metres).  

The system will be tested in industrial premises in Galicia, one of the Spanish regions with more radon emissions.

Next year, the European directive (2013/59 / Euratom) will come into effect. The new regulation will oblige governments to establish measures for controlling radon levels in work-places which are at risk and to reduce radon levels.  Also, new and specific requirements for building have to be accomplished, to avoid and reduce the radon levels indoors.