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ICRP: Free the Annals!

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Submitted by James Mc Laughlin, University College Dublin
   Commenting as an individual
Document Radiological Protection against Radon Exposure

In general terms I welcome this report and its contents. I am in agreement with many of the observations and comments already submitted in particular those of Tony Colgan, Sarah Darby , Alistair Gray,Hans Vanmarcke and of course those of the inimitable Mike O’ Riordan.

I wish therefore only to make some comments regarding Para. 153 which deals with the need to disseminate information on radon to the general population and other relevant stakeholders. This is presented as the first step in the development of awareness of radon and on how to deal with it. Raising awareness should not ,however, be seen as an end in itself. In many European countries considerable effort and expenditure over many years has gone into awareness raising and radon risk communication campaigns targeted mainly at the public. In my opinion the reduction of national cumulative radon exposures in existing dwellings as a result of these efforts has been negligible. The biggest problem the radiation protection community faces in dealing with public exposure in existing dwellings is apathy. It is very difficult to persuade members of the public to measure for radon in their homes. Even when informed that the radon concentration in their home is above a national reference level only a disappointingly low percentage of householders will decide to remediate. There are, of course, many reasons (social, economic etc) for this which will not be overcome by simply feeding the public with factual information to raise their awareness regarding radon. Therefore, in my opinion, Para 153 should be expanded to refer to the need to communicate with target audiences with the objectives of not only raising their awareness but also of persuading them to take action (i.e measure for radon and remediate where necessary). This latter and important objective falls into the category of what I think is generally called “social marketing”(definition below) which aims to change people’s behaviour. This is a skill not normally present in the skill set of radiation protection practitioners, dosimetry experts, epidemiologists or even (dare I say it ?) physicists. Therefore just as ICRP (in Para. 154 for example) recognises the importance of non radiation professionals such as architects ,builders etc in dealing with radon it should also (in Para. 153 of the present draft) stress the importance of having social marketing specialists involved in radon risk communication.

Definition extracted from Wikipedia

Social marketing is the systematic application of marketing, along with other concepts and techniques, to achieve specific behavioural goals for a social good. Social marketing can be applied to promote merit goods, or to make a society avoid demerit goods and thus to promote society''s well being as a whole. For example, this may include asking people not to smoke in public areas, asking them to use seat belts, or prompting to make them follow speed limits.”