A research team from the University of Alicante (UA) – made up of Juan José Galiana Merino, from the department of Physics, Systems Engineering and Signal Theory; Javier Valdés Abellán, from the Department of Civil Engineering, and Sara Gil Oncina, José Luís Soler Llorens and David Benavente, from the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, have developed a novel web application to estimate and model the potential risk of radon gas.

   Radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless radioactive gas that is formed from the decay of uranium present in soil and rocks. This gas exhaled from the subsoil penetrates the interior of buildings or underground facilities where it can accumulate to reach levels toxic to human health.

   Its inhalation, both directly as a gas or absorbed in particulate matter, constitutes one of the main sources of ionizing radiation for the population, being recognized as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization (WHO).

   “The main health problem associated with radon exposure is lung cancer, considered the second cause of lung cancer after tobacco,” explains David Benavente, principal investigator of the team, in a statement.

   For this reason, in some countries it is mandatory to study the concentration of this type of gas when some type of building is going to be undertaken, a measure that in Spain is only “recommended”, according to Benavente.

   However, estimating the potential of radon for health presents great complexity due to its strong dependence on environmental and geological factors, as well as its wide variability. The work developed by the UA researchers, published in the journal Earth Science Informatics, proposes a novel and original methodology in which different parameters that define and influence the potential risk of radon are combined and calculated.

   “On the one hand, the activity and transport of gas through a soil profile based on its specific texture and its water content is considered. And on the other hand, the influence of climate is also incorporated in a novel way, both in the long term, considering various climate scenarios, and in shorter terms, including local meteorological data series,” says Juan José Galiana Merino, main author of the application, who also points out that this is the first tool that “does not “It only identifies the general level, but also the potential risk taking into account the variation in climate.”

   The web format of the program, called Radon Potential, increases the dissemination, use and manageability for more users than a program that can be installed on the computer, so the developed application is aimed at scientists as well as technical experts and managers in the development of non-profit strategies. not only for measuring and mitigating radon in buildings, but also for developing large-scale radon potential maps, UA researchers report.