Radon and other naturally occurring radioactive materials (NORM) are a constant source of concern in society, especially with regard to cancer risk. The new large EU project aims to increase our knowledge of these materials. The project is a major initiative with 56 partners from 22 European countries, including active contribution from 4 CERAD partners.
Especially important for Norway
The EU radiological protection program has decided to support only one project in the period 2020 - 2025. The "RadoNorm" project will provide new knowledge about radon and materials with elevated content of NORM.
- This will be an important project for Norway, which has many areas with uranium-containing rocks and thus there is risk of radon entering into buildings, says Professor Deborah Oughton, new head of CERAD.
Little knowledge about the interaction
It is well known that radon increases the risk of lung cancer, but it is possible that other cancers can also be linked to radon exposure. NORM can also contribute to increased radiation doses. This is particularly true of NORM from mining areas, waste from non-nuclear industries such as oil and gas industry, and for areas in Norway with uranium and thorium-containing rocks.
"Although we know that interactions between radon and smoking increase lung cancer risk, we understand little about the interaction between radon, NORM and other stressors," says Oughton.
This applies to both humans and other organisms. Moreover, she says that there is also a need for better and more targeted communication about these risks with the actors that can potentially be affected by them.
Must educate new researchers
- Radon and NORM research has been ongoing within CERAD for several years, and a major European effort in the field should contribute to new, basic knowledge about both sources, transport and distribution, as well as effects on humans and other living organisms, says Professor Brit Salbu, former head of CERAD.
The project will also help to educate new researchers in radioecology and radiological protection, which is important for ensuring long-term competence.
The EU's radiation protection research program is under EURATOM, of which Norway is not a member. Norwegian participation is therefore financed nationally through the Research Council.