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Prof. Joseph K. Amoako, Associate Professor of Health Physics
Prof. Joseph K. Amoako, Associate Professor of Health Physics

Many places have cancer-causing gas — Prof. Amoako

Many places in the country have a high concentration of radon gas, a natural occurring gas whose long exposure to humans can cause lung cancer and other forms of cancers.

An Associate Professor of Health Physics at the School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences, University of Ghana, Professor Joseph K. Amoako, who disclosed this in an interview with the Daily Graphic, mentioned some of the places as parts of the Central and Greater Accra regions, as well as some mountainous and rocky environments where granite could be found.

He added, however, that the School of Nuclear and Allied Sciences, in collaboration with other universities, were undertaking more measurements to establish the radon map of the country.

“The data at the moment is not sufficient to come out with a national radon map. But it's not only in the Central and Greater Accra regions. A lot of hilly areas have radon gas because the emanation of radon depends on the underlying rock formation,” Prof. Amoako said. 

“In areas that we have a lot of granite or uranium, you are likely to have high level of radom concentration. Underground mines such as Obuasi and all those places where they have deep underground mines, there is a possibility of having high radon,” he explained.

The professor of Health Physics, therefore, called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to collaborate with the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission and the Ghana Standards Authority to come up with the needed guidelines and regulations that would regulate estate developers and buildings in the country.

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What is radon gas?

Radon gas is a natural gas that is ionising and exists in rocks. It is a decay product of uranium. The effects of this gas, according to Professor Amoako, were long term, with some of the cancers taking 30 years to develop.

He said some graduate students' studies done in Accra had also established a high radon concentration in some government buildings and public facilities.

Effect of radon gas

On the effect this gas would have on the people living in those areas, Professor Amoako explained that buildings located in areas where there were high levels of radon concentration with poor ventilation would have radon build-up in them which would go a long way to make those living in the buildings, especially children, susceptible to the effects of radon gas.

“Radon gas is known to cause lung cancers and other forms of cancers. But for children, because their cells are still developing, they are highly at risk compared to grown ups,” he stated.

On how people could determine whether they were living in places with a high radon concentration, he said radiation was not something that could be smelt nor felt unless it was measured by experts.

What should be done?

Prof. Amoako said just as the regulatory authorities did for road construction where contractors were expected to do soil test and analysis, it should be made mandatory, particularly for individuals doing large projects, putting up public places such as school laboratories and hospitals to soil test for radon gas before they start the building.

For individuals staying in those areas, the health physicist advised that their buildings should have large open windows for good ventilation and that the windows should be the old fashion louvre blades instead of the sliding ones which reduced the flow of air.

Prof. Amoako explained that it was also important that building materials such as tiles and paints that were made from the soil were analysed to see if they did not emit some form of natural occurring radiation.

He explained that where the soil was sourced from could make them have high levels of naturally occurring radioactive materials, thus the products might be a source of radiation.

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