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S. Korea's radon level in homes world's second-highest

2013/10/14 10:45

SEOUL, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has the world's No. 2 level of cancer-causing radon concentrations in dwellings, a lawmaker said Monday.

According to Rep. Jang Ha-na of the main opposition Democratic Party, the average annual concentrations of radon gas was 124.9 becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3) in 7,885 randomly selected homes around the country, the second highest after the Czech Republic's 140 Bq/m3.

Under the 2010 World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for air quality, the Czech Republic topped the list of countries with the highest levels of radon concentrations, followed by Finland (120 Bq/m3), Luxembourg (115 Bq/m3) and Sweden (108 Bq/m3). The comparable figures for other Asian countries were 16 Bq/m3 for Japan and 44 Bq/m3 for China.

The finding is based on a comparison of data compiled by the National Institute of Environmental Research with the levels of 29 countries surveyed under the 2010 WHO air quality guidelines, the lawmaker said.

Radon is a radioactive, colorless and odorless gas occurring naturally as an indirect decay product of uranium or thorium. It is considered a health hazard due to its radioactivity. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking, causing 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States.

South Korea's primary schools, where children spend many hours a day, were measured to have an annual average radon concentration of 98.4 Bq/m3.

Seventy-seven primary schools in Gangwon Province, in particular, had an annual average of 156.8 Bq/m3 radon concentrations, far exceeding the 140 Bq/m3 for the Czech Republic, according to the lawmaker.

The levels for 45 primary schools in North Chungcheong Province and seven primary schools in Ulsan were 139.47 Bq/m3 and 113.31 Bq/m3, respectively.

The lawmaker said the government should set up guidelines to control the radon concentrations after measuring radon levels in childcare centers, kindergartens, schools and nursing homes to protect those vulnerable to radioactivity.

sshim@yna.co.kr

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