Measurement Uncertainty

Ireland’s Draft National Radon Control Strategy – A Fraud !!

2013-02-28:  Submissions on Ireland’s Draft National Radon Control Strategy must arrive at the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government, our national authority having jurisdiction … by e-mail or hand delivery to either the Custom House in Dublin or the DECLG Offices in Wexford … no later than 17:30 hrs tomorrow, Friday 1 March 2013

DECLG - Draft National Radon Control Strategy Title Page (January 2013)

Ireland’s Draft National Radon Control Strategy – January 2013 Consultation

Click the Link above to read/download PDF File (425 Kb)

The Aim of this Draft Strategy, as stated on the DECLG WebSite, is to ensure that exposure to Radon Gas, which presents a significant public health problem, is addressed in an effective and co-ordinated way across all relevant public authorities through appropriate interventions.  The Draft Strategy was developed by an Inter-Agency Group comprising representatives from relevant public authorities.

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After all of the progress made on radon protection in buildings at the end of the 1990’s and beginning of the 2000’s, it is extremely disappointing to read this miserable excuse for a strategy document.  If the general public in Ireland is under any impression that the ‘powers-that-be’ are deeply concerned about protecting our health … they are making a fatal mistake !

The complete absence of any reference to a Recommended Health-Related Radon Target Level – Safety-Related National Reference Levels which are not clearly explained will result in some injury and harm – Lack of Meaningful Consultation with, and Informed Consent of, the National Population – Horrendously Inadequate Technical Control Procedures on Irish Building Sites – RPII Recommended Indoor Radon Activity Measuring Devices having Very High Measurement Uncertainty (±30% under typical conditions of use) – A Purposeful Lack of Detailed Guidance on Exactly When and How to Measure Indoor Radon – Inadequate RPII Radon Measurement Test Reporting … are just some of the tell-tale signs for a seasoned observer.

In this regard, therefore … and let me be very clear and simple in my use of language … this Draft National Radon Control Strategy is a blatant fraud !!

Fraud:  Deliberate deception, trickery, or cheating intended to gain an advantage – An act or instance of such deception (from Latin Fraus (f): deceit, deception).

Furthermore … the Inter-Agency Group which produced this Draft National Radon Control Strategy for the DECLG Minister, Mr. Phil Hogan T.D., and Senior Civil Servants within the Department … whoever the Group’s participants are, wherever they are … should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for being associated with this negligent act !

Negligent:  Lacking attention, care or concern.

Negligence:  A wrong whereby a person(s) is in breach of a legal duty of care, resulting in harm or injury to another person(s) … in this case, the Irish Public.

To see a complete overview on this Serious Building-Related Human Health Issue, and for information about a Far Better and More Coherent Approach to Radon Protection in Buildings which takes proper account of European Union (E.U.) legislation, e.g. the Precautionary Principle … please refer to SDI’s Corporate WebSite

NORM, Radon Gas, Radon Activity & Protection from Radon in Buildings

(It is not my intention to reproduce, here, all of the content on this WebPage as part of the Submission.)

I am also the Technical Consultant who drafted these 2 Benchmark Irish Agrément Board (IAB) Certificates for Radon Protection Measures in Buildings …

Monarflex Radon Resisting Membranes – IAB Certificate No. 98/0075

and

Radon Control Systems: Easi-Sump & Easi-Sump Cap-Link – IAB Certificate No. 01/0130

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SDI’s Comments on Ireland’s Draft National Radon Control Strategy (NRCS)

1.   Protecting Human Health versus Reducing Risk to Safety

The following two short extracts from 1. Introduction and Background in the Draft NRCS reveal the true intent of the Inter-Agency Group …

‘ Radon gas is the greatest source of exposure to ionising radiation for the general public and is the second greatest cause of lung cancer in Ireland.  Recognising the serious health risk presented by radon, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government in November 2011 established an inter-agency group to develop a National Radon Control Strategy (NRCS).’

and …

‘ During 2012 the inter-agency group developed a draft NRCS based on wide stakeholder consultation and a health economics evaluation of different radon intervention strategies.  The stakeholder consultation involved a range of individuals and bodies involved in: health care, construction, radon services, Government and academia.  The health economics evaluation was undertaken by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) and Health Service Executive (HSE) with the assistance of the Health Economics Unit at the University of Oxford.  This draft strategy sets out a range of measures to reduce the risk from radon to people living in Ireland.’

Radon is a serious human health issue, and it is explained in a later section of the document 1.2 The Radon Problem in Ireland that ‘indoor radon is linked to between 150 to 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland, which equates to approximately 13% of all lung cancer deaths.’

However … after the references above to ‘health economics evaluation’ (!) … to the ‘prevailing  economic situation’ (!!) in section 1.1 Public Consultation … and to ‘health economics tools’ (!!!) in section 2. Draft National Radon Control Strategy … etc … you should then sensitize yourself to the subtle change in language very early in the document … from a consideration of health protection, to reducing the risk from radon (or similar variations on that theme).

The concept of Protecting Human Health is altogether different from the concept of Assessing and Mitigating / Reducing Risk to Safety !   Please refer to SDI’s Corporate WebSite.

As far back as the end of the 1990’s … the Irish Agrément Board, which at the time included a representative from the Department of the Environment, accepted the following …

Radon Activity in Buildings – Recommended Target Health Level

Radon Activity (incl. Rn-222, Rn-220, RnD) should, on average, fall within the range of 10-40 Bq/m3, but should at no time exceed 60 Bq/m3.

This Recommended Target Health Level for Radon now also appears in International Standard ISO 21542: ‘Building Construction – Accessibility & Usability of the Built Environment’, which was published in December 2011.  Please refer to Annex B.8 – Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in the ISO Standard.

The Draft NRCS must refer to such a Recommended Target Health Level … and it must be stated that it is National Policy to progressively reach that target by 2025 (bearing in mind the ‘prevailing economic situation’ in the country !).

Note:  In contrast to the above … 200 Bq/m3 for Residential Buildings, and 400 Bq/m3 for Workplaces … are NOT Health-Related Target Levels … they are Safety-Related National Radon Reference Levels which result in some measure of harm and injury to people … particularly children under the age of 10 years, and people with activity limitations who constantly remain indoors for prolonged periods of time.

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2.   National Policy Priority:  ‘Real’ Protection from Radon in ‘Real’ Irish Buildings

Yes … in Ireland, we have enormous problems with regard to a lack of awareness among the general population about the serious health hazard posed by indoor radon … and the absence of proper education and training for everyone directly involved in the design, construction, management, operation, servicing or maintenance of our building stock (both new and existing).

BUT … if we are committed to providing ‘real’ radon protection in ‘real’ Irish buildings, then a practical construction-oriented approach is demanded.

This is a Key Paragraph in 2.1 Radon Prevention in New Buildings

‘ The stakeholder engagement also points to some practical difficulties associated with the implementation of the current technical guidance on radon prevention.  These difficulties relate to the correct installation of radon barriers under site conditions, protection of the integrity of radon barriers once installed and identification of radon preventive measures on site.  The stakeholder engagement also indicated the system of building control in place prior to 2012 did not provide adequate assurance that radon preventive measures had been correctly installed ‘

… which we later discover is a masterstroke of understatement and evasion, because none of these important issues are tackled head on in the document.

On the critical issue of Building Control … there is no mention of mandatory inspections of construction projects by competent Local Authority personnel.  Because … it remains the unwritten policy of Ministers and Senior Civil Servants in Ireland’s Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government (DECLG) that Local Authority Building Control Sections will be entirely ineffective.

On the other hand … will Competent Private Independent Technical Controllers be facilitated in carrying out sufficient inspections of all radon protection related works before ‘signing off’ on proper completion ???

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3.   Regulatory Status of RPII’s Radon Prediction Maps

This is NOT a problem unique to Ireland.

The presence of the RPII Radon Prediction Maps in Technical Guidance Document C (Building Regulations), and the status they are given there … are both entirely inappropriate.

While these Maps are a useful design aid, in the case of small construction projects, they offer NO assurance of certainty to either building designers or users.  They are NOT reliable !   And the average values shown in any particular ‘box’ may actually conceal a considerable degree of variability in the radon concentrations found in completed buildings.

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4.   SDI’s Acceptance of RPII Services

Please refer to SDI’s Corporate WebSite.

Unfortunately, until the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) includes proper statements of Measurement Uncertainty in its Test Reports (this is a requirement of European Standard EN ISO/IEC 17025)  … our Organization:

  • cannot recommend any RPII Radon Testing Services to 3rd Parties ;

and

  • will not accept any RPII Test Reports as proper evidence of Radon Test results.

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C. J. Walsh – Consultant Architect, Fire Engineer & Technical Controller – Managing Director, Sustainable Design International Ltd. – Ireland, Italy & Turkey.

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BER Certificates & Poor Indoor Air Quality (III)

2009-02-27:  Energy Labelling of Industrial Products is an essential means of raising consumer awareness about energy efficiency and conservation.  I like being able to wander into an electrical shop anywhere in Ireland, Italy or Turkey, for example … and to compare the energy performance of different makes of washing machines, dishwashers or fridges … and even of apparently similar products in the different countries.

 

I can easily visualize these small industrial products being brought into a test laboratory, and then being put through their paces.  It is a credible system.

 

This is NOT possible, however, with a building.

 

 

EU Directive 2002/91/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 16 December 2002, on the Energy Performance of Buildings … is a short document of 7 Pages.  Its Preamble takes up slightly more than the first 2 Pages, and there is a 1 Page Annex at the rear.  Its language is clear and straightforward (see the example of Article 4 below).

 

[What I fail to understand is how and why the Irish National Legislation which implements the Directive … Statutory Instrument No. 666 of 2006: European Communities (Energy Performance of Buildings) Regulations 2006 … is so clumsy, awkward and full of flaws … offering us yet another example of failed ‘light-touch regulation’.  It may also be unconstitutional.]

 

 

 

The EU Directive has something important to say about Indoor Air Quality

 

Article 4 – Setting of Energy Performance Requirements

 

1. Member States shall take the necessary measures to ensure that minimum energy performance requirements for buildings are set, based on the methodology referred to in Article 3.  When setting requirements, Member States may differentiate between new and existing buildings and different categories of buildings.  These requirements shall take account of general indoor climate conditions, in order to avoid possible negative effects such as inadequate ventilation, as well as local conditions and the designated function and the age of the building.

 

[Quick flashback to a generation ago … the panic, throughout Europe, to conserve energy in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s led to a dramatic reduction in rates and quantities of direct, natural ventilation to the habitable spaces of buildings.  This, in turn, had an adverse impact on Indoor Air Quality, and led to a sharp rise in Asthma among building occupants.]

 

 

 

In Ireland, today, problems concerning Poor Indoor Air Quality continue to occur … typically during the Winter Heating Season.  There is a natural tendency to keep windows closed and to seal permanent ventilation openings.  Accidental indoor air seepage to the exterior is also being reduced in our newer building stock.

 

Poor Indoor Air Quality, an important factor in relation to building related ill-health (also known as ‘sick building syndrome’), can cause serious health impairments and severely restrict a person’s participation in everyday activities, e.g. work.

 

Symptoms and Signs may include:

         irritation of eyes, nose and throat ;

         respiratory infections and cough ;

         voice hoarseness and wheezing ;

         asthma ;

         dry mucous membrane and skin ;

         erythema (reddening or inflammation of the skin) ;

         lethargy ;

         mental fatigue and poor concentration ;

         headache ;

         stress ;

         hypersensitivity reactions, i.e. allergies ;

         nausea and dizziness ;

         cancers.

 

 

 

The following 2 Performance Indicators of Good Indoor Air Quality, developed with the aim of protecting human health, are recommended:

 

         Carbon Dioxide (CO2) concentrations in a building should not significantly exceed average external levels – typically within the range of 300 to 500 parts per million – but should at no time exceed 800 parts per million ;

 

         Radon Activity (including Rn-222, Rn-220, RnD) in a building should, on average, fall within the range of 10 to 40 Bq/m3 … but should at no time exceed 60 Bq/m3.

 

 

NOTES:

 

The concept of Protecting Human Health is altogether different from the concept of Assessing Risk to Safety.

 

In Ireland, testing for Radon Activity in buildings must take place during the Heating Season, i.e. the months of November through to March.  What is the use of testing during July, for example, when windows will be wide open ?   Who would even think of doing that ?   I wonder.

 

Measurement Uncertainty of the standard Alpha Particle Etched-Track Detector distributed by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is as follows:

         under laboratory conditions: …………………… in the order of …… +/- 10%

         under tightly controlled site conditions: …. in the order of …… +/- 20%

         under typical conditions of use: …………….. well in excess of … +/- 30%

 

Unfortunately, until the RPII includes proper statements of Measurement Uncertainty in its Test Reports … our Organization cannot recommend RPII Radon Testing Services, and we will not accept RPII Test Reports as proper evidence of Radon Test Results.

 

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