In this Expert Interview we talk to David Lenden, Director of RPmatters – a UK business dedicated to providing radiation protection advice and support across the UK. During our conversation, David discusses the current state and potential evolution of the radon measurement market in the UK and his longstanding relationship with Radonova.
Can you give me some background on your company and what it does?
We are a small business based in the South West of the UK (specifically Plymouth) that has been operating for over ten years. We provide general radiation protection advice and support across numerous sectors; including, but not limited to, Radon measurement. As an accredited Radiation Protection Advisor and Chartered Radiation Protection Professional I can, and do, provide advice and support to individuals, housing associations, companies and schools etc. for compliance with legislation relating to ionising radiations; this includes Radon. Although this is not unique, we do provide a service that has been identified by our clients as much more approachable, pragmatic and comprehensive than others. A company supplying detectors doesn’t usually have an RPA, the legal appointed professional, required to comply with UK occupational regulations above 300 Bq/m3.
Are you affiliated to any radon associations?
Yes, we are. We are members of the European Radon Association, the UK Radon Association (I actually sit on the UKRA board), are associated with COIRA (Coalition of International Radon Associations) and member & affiliated to the Society for Radiological Protection. Each of these associations are working to improve Radon awareness and increase the number of measurements and mitigation.
What is the current state of the radon measurement market in the UK?
Generally, I would say it is buoyant. Without being disrespectful to others, the UK is doing more than some other countries, but at the same time we have a long way to go. The potential market is significant.
How do you foresee the market changing over the next few years?
It is difficult to say. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have reconfirmed that the legislation relating to Radon exposure is applicable for all employers; even plumbers and electricians in Radon Affected Areas! But I remember a HSE inspector at a conference in 2007 stating that about 95% of employers in Radon Affected Areas are unaware that radon could cause a risk in the workplace. I am not sure this percentage has improved at all but if you add in how unaware employers with work locations below/partially below ground ANYWHERE in the UK are of the need to measure, I don’t think the percentage would have gone down at all.
There used to be twelve radiation protection specialist HSE inspectors – I believe there’s now three. One point I’d like to make is the toing and froing between the HSE and Public Health England (PHE). The HSE stance is that radon is a public health issue, where as PHE view radon as a health and safety issue. Once a department takes responsibility, we are more likely to see quicker progress.
In my opinion IF the HSE can be appropriately funded to enforce the requirements of a simple Radon risk assessment, then measurement in the workplace would dramatically increase. Domestic measurements are an even more difficult market to develop but which MUST be managed. Simple measurement with straightforward and low-cost mitigation can save lives. The Only Way to Know is to Measure.
Without the above it shall remain a slow but increasing market.
How did you start working with Radonova?
That takes me back before I started the business. I was working for a multinational company supporting Radon measurements in a housing stock of 49,000 homes about 15 years ago. In fact RPmatters are still working with that client. I was looking for a validated laboratory to provide large quantities of etch track detectors for three-month measurements. Radonova had the capabilities we needed. In addition to being UK validated, large quantities of detectors can be processed and reported upon promptly. The fact that they are also an ISO 17025 accredited laboratory meant they are a much valued Service not just a provider of plastic. When detectors are purchased a whole team of people work behind the scenes to ensure that it is not just a number on a page you get back.
What is your relationship with Radonova on a day to day basis?
We provide the point of contact for all Radonova products supplied to companies or individuals in the UK; whether supplied by ourselves, directly from Radonova or by secondary sellers. Fortunately the people at Radonova are very approachable, knowledgeable and helpful so sorting problems tends to be relatively easy. Customers having the ability to enter their data directly onto the server is great but the number of people who lose the paperwork (specifically login details) means we do contact them almost daily. It’s great to be viewed as part of the team; even more so when most are Liverpool fans!
Are there any Radonova technologies that are particularly relevant to the UK market?
I think there are three that deserve a mention. The principle technology we use on a daily basis is Radtrak2. Secondly, combining Radtrak2 with the online server access (Radonline) makes a formidable service.
But the device that I am most enthusiastic about is the Duotrak. In its current mode it is an excellent exposure meter being able to provide a result for workplace exposure during occupation.
A variation of the system, Ecotrak, can measure Radon levels in soil resulting in estimation of Radon potential in new build properties. A much better process than that described to me by a local Site Manager of a 1,200-acre new build site where we were looking to purchase a house. He described putting one etch track detector at the end of the site on the ground surface under a bucket for three months and when the result came back he stated that “there is no Radon”; so they didn’t install any protective measures! We didn’t buy a house there…
Any closing thoughts?
Thinking about these questions has meant I had to summarise, in my mind, nearly 40 years of Radon protection into a few points of (potential) interest. And the one point that I keep coming back to is getting people to take simple and inexpensive actions to save lives.
The final thought is how America have, recently, increased Radon measurements being made in the home by targeting pet owners. It would seem people are more willing to spend a small amount of money to protect their pets than themselves!
David Lenden during last meeting in Uppsala.
From left to right : Tryggve Rönnqvist, technical manager at Radonova – David Lenden, Director of RPmatters – José-Luis Gutierrez, Specialist Radon Measurement Advisor at Radonova and Oscar Wännerud, laboraty Manager at Radonova