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Introduction to radon exposure and methods to protect laborers’ health rightsFuture strategies and plans to prevent radon exposure-a rising concern in South Korea
Researcher Eun-kyo Jung introduces the chemical element of radon <Photography=Chijung Park>

[The Hwankyong Ilbo] Since the radon bed incident that happened about two months ago, the hazardous nature of radon came into attention for Korea recently. Despite little actions from the government, radon experts have already initiated plans to restrict exposure to radon. In one of the events from the Korea International Safety & Health Show convention at Coex hall, Ministry of Employment and Labor hosted a seminar on the dangers of radon exposure and on the plan to secure laborers’ health on July 4th.

Jae-Cheol Ko, the director of Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency, introduced the issue of radon and necessity of future strategies. In response, four radon experts shared their own knowledge and research in each sub-expertise: Jae-ki Lee, the chief of Korean Association for Radiation Protection; Dong-wook Park, a professor at Korea National Open University; Sung-cheol Seo, a professor at Eulji university; and Eun-kyo Jung, a senior researcher at Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency.

As an introduction, Chief Lee presents a basic outline of radon, along with its harmful effects and methods of prevention. Radon is a noble, radioactive gas element from the decadence of thorium and uranium. Radon not only exists in mines but also in factories and other manual labor workplaces.

Lee develops this idea with a complete explanation of how radon is formed and is part of the alpha particles (radioactive light). When workers are exposed to this, it impairs their DNA and gives a higher chance of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

As Professor Park emphasizes the gravity of radon’s hazardous nature, he substantiates his point by expounding ubiquitous places that contain a high concentration of radon-such as factories of household items, tunnels and, especially, subway stations. Both experts affirm that lack of ventilation is the critical factor of radon exposure.

However, ventilation cannot be the sole way to restrict radon exposure to manual laborers. Professor Seo propounds more momentous changes to secure the health of workers: new policies and amendments.

Because European countries faced radon problems few decades ago, they have established stringent laws to limit the number of radons in workplaces. Furthermore, the United Kingdom is already ionizing radiation to neutralize it. Seo strongly believes that monthly check-ups with radiation measurements, new official limitations of radon concentration, and a map of radon and management should be established.

In addition to Seo’s declarative insinuations, researcher Jung differentiates the effect of absorption and exposure to radons in a human body, advocating a better health insurance and mandatory check-ups for the workers. He also described specific ways of measuring radon concentration, listing each instrument and its purpose.

For South Korea, the war against radon exposure just started, yet experts had already established strategies to restrict radioactive subjection. Despite little initiation, the government has shown an active interest in these proposals. In such seminars like this, it shows a brighter future for the laborers’ health.

Chijung Park Reporter  chijungpark@hkbs.co.kr

<저작권자 © 환경일보, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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