The project “Citizen Observatory of Radon” funded by the RADONORM European Consortium aims to reduce indoor radon levels through measurement of exposure and increased awareness of radon risks and mitigation measures in houses and working places in Abbadia San Salvatore, one of the most radon-affected municipalities in Italy. The Municipality of Abbadia San Salvatore is located in the Monte Amiata area, a volcanic and geothermal area. It is located in southern Tuscany close to Siena. The Municipality has approximately 6000 inhabitants and hosts five schools (one nursery, one primary, one middle school and two high school).
We plan to create a citizen science initiative that will measure exposure to radon in 300 places (260 homes, 20 rooms in 5 schools,10 offices, and 10 workplaces) with passive radon detectors over a three-month period and create an interactive map of exposure in the entire municipality. Through the direct involvement of 300 citizens and the indirect involvement of 900 students of four schools and the organization of public events we want to raise awareness about the risks and also share possible mitigation strategies. Promoting citizen science activity will provide a supportive environment for building positive relationships between citizens and local authorities and create the prerequisite to expand the radon monitoring to more sites in the area that have never been monitored.
According to the 2019 latest official regional radon monitoring study by ARPAT, the medium value in the only 19 homes monitored in Abbadia San Salvatore was 203 Bq/m3, with a maximum value recorded of 959 Bq/m3. This project deserves to be funded better to understand the radon distribution of this vulnerable area and to let more inhabitants know about radon exposure. Promoting a citizen science activity will provide a supportive environment for building positive relationships between citizens and local authorities and create the prerequisite to expand the radon monitoring to more sites in the area that has never been monitored before
Radon measurement is the first step to being aware of risks and therefore implementing remediation that results in social and health benefits. The citizens will know about the exposure in their houses and workplaces and implement remediation. Furthermore, students will become citizen scientists with two more benefits: on one side, they will learn how to develop a proper scientific investigation; on the other side, they will be aware of radon risks and exposure and therefore, the project will create a new informed and active generation
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that has no smell, colour or taste and which may be found in high concentrations in indoor environments, such as homes and workplaces. Radon is produced from the natural radioactive decay of uranium, which is found in all rocks and soils, and is one of the leading causes of lung cancers. Radon is much more likely to cause lung cancer in people who smoke.
Radon concentration indoors can easily be measured with a small passive detector. Testing normally involves placing two small detection devices in the house for a period of time (usually three months). At the end of this period, the detectors can be posted to the testing laboratory which calculate the radon levels in becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). If the radon level in the house is over the reference level, of 300 Bq/m3 based on the European Basic Safety Standards Directive, national authorities usually recommend taking action to reduce the level of radon (this is called radon remediation). The two main methods of radon remediation are to prevent radon entering the home from the ground underneath or remove the radon after it has entered the home.
The project includes five main activities:
1) Introduction events to be carried out together with local committee to present the project to the public and involve at least 280 citizens (for home sampling) to engage in the project and become citizen scientists.
2) Public project presentation in the four schools (reaching roughly 900 students) and creating four school monitoring committees for each school that means a total of 16 citizen teachers. After the training, these teachers will be responsible for including the students of their classes (approximately 240 students will be directly involved) in the radon sampling and data process and results dissemination, increasing their awareness of radon risk mitigation and citizen science methodology. We will also measure radon exposure in 4 rooms in the nursery but in this case without the involvement of the kids. Four teachers will be trained for radon data collection and will be involved as citizens scientists into the project.
3) Training event only for citizen scientists to share guidelines on how to install radon samplers and get information through an extensive questionnaire.
4) Collect radon samples by citizens after 3 months of monitoring. Training courses to interpret data and upload it on the radon map.
5) Final events to share to the public the results of the project and with the support of a radon expert, share mitigation’s strategies.
The main outputs of this six-month project include the following:
1) Scientific reports on radon distribution concentration. This it will be printed and delivered to the public and citizens during the final events. It will also be available on different web channels and freely accessible to everyone.
2) Radon map of the area.
3) Open access tools publicly available for replication of the project.
4) Short-documentary production on the project in order to facilitate replications
RadoNorm is a European project funded by the European Commission under the Euratom research and training programme 2019-2020 under Grant Agreement No 900009. RadoNorm stands for “Towards effective radiation protection based on improved scientific evidence and social considerations – focus on Radon and NORM” and is the biggest EC co-funded project in the area which aims to provide answers to open questions related to radon and NORM exposure of humans and the environment and to provide sound, feasible and applicable solutions for radiation risk reduction which are widely acceptable for the individuals and the public.