Swedish homeowners’ radon concerns rise ahead of new rules

Swedish homeowners' radon concerns rise ahead of new rules
Home owners in Stockholm are rushing to apply for government subsidies to tackle radon problems in their houses. Health concerns and Sweden's pending adoption of European Union energy declaration directives lie behind the trend.

The Energy Declaration of Buildings Act was passed by the Swedish parliament and came into force in 2006.

It stipulates that all buildings in Sweden must have an energy declaration from January 1st 2009.

The new legislation harmonized domestic Swedish legislation with EU law and implemented Directive 2002/91/EC of the European Parliament and the Council on the Energy Performance of Buildings (EPBD).

One of the factors covered by the declaration is the harmful inert gas radon, common in Swedish homes – especially those built from 1929 to 1978 when the use of radon in construction ceased.

Aside from the new legislation, there is good reason for tackling high radon levels as it is the most common cause of lung cancer, after smoking, in Sweden.

Every year, 500 people die as a direct result of exposure to high levels of radon, according to Dagens Nyheter.

The pending regulations, and greater awareness of the health risks posed by radon, has sent home owners in Stockholm and other counties in Sweden rushing to apply for subsidies to tackle their radon problems.

“We have never had so many applications as we have now,” said Gerd Norrman at Stockholm county housing office to Dagens Nyheter.

In Stockholm alone 196 home owners have applied for subsidies in the first six months of 2008 in comparison with 98 in the corresponding period of 2007.

The subsidies cover up to half the cost of decontaminating homes from radon, with a limit of 15,000 kronor ($2,479). Subsidies are available for the purchase of energy-efficient windows, biomass boilers and other indoor environment measures.

Radon is an inert gas that is found in the ground and ground water. It can enter homes through leaks in the foundations or the walls of the house, or from wells.

The Energy Declaration of Buildings Act which will come into force on January 1st 2009 will apply to all newly built homes and buildings and when a building is sold or rented out.

Before an energy declaration can be drawn up for an existing building the owner must ensure than the building is inspected by an independent expert. The owner must also make sure that one copy of the energy declaration is filed with the National Board of Housing (Boverket) which will be responsible for an energy declaration register.

Properties in Sweden