What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive noble gas. It is odorless, tasteless and colorless and is formed from uranium during radioactive decay. Since uranium occurs everywhere as a trace element (rock, soil, building materials), radon is also formed everywhere. As a noble gas, radon can easily escape from the material in which it is formed and thus enter the air we breathe. The radioactive decay products of radon (polonium, bismuth, lead) stick to the bronchial tubes and can damage the upper cell layers of the alveoli and thus cause lung cancer. In Austria, about ten percent of lung cancer cases are caused by radon.
Inhabited buildings act - especially in the cold season - like suction bells, i.e. a low negative pressure is created in the building by the so-called stack effect, which sucks ground air and thus radon into the house. In closed rooms, this can lead to an accumulation of radon in the air we breathe.
How can I protect myself from radon?
- Inform: Inform yourself about the dangers and risks of radon. You can find more information here and on the Radon Information Page of the Ministry of Climate Protection. You can use the interactive radon map to find out about the mandatory and recommended radon protection measures in your community.
- Measure: Only a measurement gives certainty about the radon level in a building. The measurement detectors are sent by mail - carrying out the measurement is simple and inexpensive. If you are interested in a radon measurement, you can get more information here.
- If needed: Act! If elevated radon concentrations have been detected, remedial action can often be taken with relatively simple measures.
- Precaution: If you are planning new construction or renovation of existing buildings, simple radon protection measures should also be planned. Preventive radon protection is cheaper, more effective and simpler than subsequent radon remediation measures.
Radon protection of buildings
Below you will find information on protective measures in structural radon protection for new buildings, general renovations and existing buildings.
Simple radon protection measures for new buildings
In Austria, mandatory radon protection for new buildings is regulated by the building legislation.
Simple and inexpensive preventive measures are the best protection against high radon concentrations in new buildings. They are much simpler, more effective and, in the long run, less expensive than the subsequent radon remediation of a building. As a general rule, the tighter the building envelope is designed against the ground, the lower the radon risk. New buildings should be planned in such a way that the radon concentration in the occupied rooms is below the reference value of 300 Bq/m³ as an annual average.
To ensure this, a convection-tight design of the building components, connections and penetrations in contact with the ground is essential, for example by using a pipe penetration system (annular seals, lining pipes, wall collars, etc.).
ÖNORM S 5280-2 "Radon - Technical precautionary measures for buildings" describes the required radon protection measures depending on the type of building (with or without basement, slope), the location of the building and the planned design of the building components in contact with the ground.
In certain areas, further preventive radon protection measures may be useful. Especially in the case that a convection-tight design of the building components cannot be guaranteed. According to ÖNORM S 5280-2, one such radon protection measure can be the installation of a radon drainage system with passive air removal via the roof. The additional costs in new buildings for the perforated pipes required for this, which are laid under the foundation in the garvel bed, usually amount to less than € 1.000 for the material costs. In addition, there are costs for the execution by a construction company. These amount to about € 500,- to € 1.000,- for the additional work. After completion of the building, a control measurement is recommended.
- Execution details for radon drainage as well as for the other options mentioned above can be found in the brochure of the State of Upper Austria in the downloads at the bottom of the page.
- Under certain conditions, the state of Upper Austria subsidizes radon precautionary measures in new buildings. You can find more information here.
- It is not advisable to carry out soil gas tests on the building ground, as they are time-consuming, expensive and inconclusive.
Radon remediation of existing buildings
If the measurement shows that the reference value of 300 Bq/m³ is exceeded, this can be remediated by proven remediation measures on the building. The measures range from sealing building components such as the floor slab to extracting the soil air below the floor slab.
The cost of remediation measures depends heavily on the measure required. While simple measures - which can often be carried out on one's own - cost only a few € 100, costs of up to € 5,000 can arise for complex conditions.
For the planning and execution of radon remediation measures, the following experts for building radon protection are at your disposal.
Consideration of radon protection during a general renovation or thermal refurbishment
General renovations offer a good opportunity to cost-effectively reduce radon concentrations. Therefore, be sure to have a radon measurement performed prior to the general renovation. In case of elevated radon concentrations, plan radon protection measures.
Various studies show that radon concentrations can increase when the building envelope is sealed as part of a thermal renovation of a building. To avoid unpleasant surprises after thermal renovation, you should find out in advance about the possibilities of taking the radon situation into account and, if necessary, take additional measures.
Experts for building radon protection in Austria
Since radon protection is primarily a building issue, if radon protection measures are professionally planned and executed in new construction and renovations, the health risk from indoor radon can be greatly reduced.
For this reason, the Austrian Radon Competence Center offers training on radon protection in buildings. This is intended to create a network of trained building experts to support building owners in planning and implementing radon protection measures (for example, radon remediation).
The list of trained experts for building radon protection in Austria can be found here.
Radon protection at the workplace
Very high radon concentrations may occur at certain workplaces. Limitation of radon exposure and protection of employees is regulated by the Radiation Protection Act (see below) and the Radon Protection Ordinance (see below) and applies to the following establishments:
- Water supply facilities
- Mines and other underground work areas
- tourist mines and show caves
- Radon spas
- Establishments with workplaces in ground floors and basements in radon protection areas
In Austria, these establishments are obliged to commission an authorized radon monitoring body to measure the radon concentration. If the reference value of 300 Bq/m³ is exceeded, the result must be reported to the competent provincial authority and optimization measures to reduce the radon concentration must be implemented. If, despite the measures taken, it is not possible to reduce the radon concentration to below the reference value at all affected workplaces, a dose assessment for the employees must be carried out by an authorized radon monitoring service.
In our function as an authorized monitoring body, we carry out radon measurements as well as dose assessments and determinations. Further information and details can be obtained here.
Radon Competence Centre Austria
Our Radon Competence Centre Austria was established in 2006 to coordinate all activities related to radon in Austria. The core tasks of the radon competence are to participate in the implementation of the national radon action plan, to provide advice and information to the public and to authorities and companies, and to carry out special projects on current issues. In addition, the competence centre has the best-equipped laboratory in Austria for measuring radon in air, water and soil.
Radon Network Austria
The Radon Network Austria offers stakeholders, authorities, companies and interested citizens the opportunity to network with each other, to raise questions and concerns and to discuss ideas for protection against radon.
The Radon Network Austria was founded by the Radon Competence Centre on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Climate Protection and pursues the following goals:
- To connect stakeholders, authorities, companies and all interested citizens with each other
- To provide an unbureaucratic communication and cooperation platform for radon topics
- To report on current developments in the field of radon protection
- To know questions and concerns of stakeholders, authorities, companies etc. and to react to them in a targeted way
- To collect and make available a wide range of information on the topic of "radon in buildings”
- To provide a point of contact for advice on radon
Last updated: 19.01.2022