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The Germans misjudged radiation risks

Smartphones are generally suspected, even nuclear power plants are often considered a source of dangerous radiation. Other sources are generally more dangerous to health.

Many Germans do not know it. This is at least the result of a representative survey commissioned by the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), which was published Wednesday in Berlin.

Nearly three out of four respondents (73.9 percent) said they were "very" or "more" worried about nuclear power plant radiation. More than one in two (51.4 percent) is worried about cell tower radiation, almost as much (51 percent) on mobile phones and tablets.

In contrast, just under 23% are concerned about radon in the environment, although rare gas is the main source of annual average radiation exposure and the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.

Five percent of lung cancer deaths are due to radon

The current survey shows that the risks of nuclear power in the population are overestimated and the risk of radon is underestimated, said BfS president Inge Paulini.

Radon naturally forms in the ground when the uranium decomposes and can enter buildings from there. The gas is colorless, has no smell or taste. Radon breaks down after inhalation into the lungs, thereby releasing radioactive radiation – consequently, increases the risk of cancer.

According to the BfS, about 5% of all lung cancer deaths in Germany can be attributed to radon. A threshold below which the gas is certainly safe, but was not yet known. For citizens, the authority recommends going on air regularly as a countermeasure and sealing leaks in the cellar and on the ground floor.

The radon level varies widely in Germany, depending on the amount of uranium and radio present in a region of the soil and its permeability. Increased is the Radongefahr approximately in Bavaria, Baden-W├╝rttemberg, Thuringia and Saxony. (A map with the Radonpotenzial in Germany is available on this page of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, but only allows a rough assessment.)

The president of BfS Paulini sees a gap in the growing digitization in Germany: "On the one hand there is the natural management of new technologies and on the other a perception of the threat deriving from the exposure to radiation".

One in two (49.2 percent) believed in the survey that cell phone radiation could damage genetic material. The Federal Office points out that this is not correct. Even with the expansion of networks on 5G nothing changes based on the current state of research – although some researchers require even more study data (read more here.) Almost all respondents (48.7 percent) they hear from government institutions before the mobile phone "not at all" and "rather not" well protected installations.

In general, over 35% said they were worried about being "surrounded by radiation everywhere", almost one in three believed that radiation exposure was too high.