Protection against radiation from construction products
This page presents an overview of the main provisions for protection against radioactive radiation from construction products.
General questions on the procedure
What is the applicable legal basis?
The Radiation Protection Act (StrlSchG) of 27 June 2017 (BGBl. I, p. 1966) is the legal basis for protection against radiation from construction products and other radiation protection matters. It transposes Directive 2013/59/EURATOM laying down basic safety standards for protection against the dangers arising from exposure to ionising radiation into national law.
Provisions on construction products are mainly included in Part 4, Chapter 3 'Protection against radiation from construction products' of the Radiation Protection Act (see Sections 133 to 135 StrlSchG). The Radiation Protection Act is further specified by the Radiation Protection Ordinance (StrlSchV) of 29 November 2018 (BGBI I, pp. 2034, 2036).
What obligations in relation to construction products arise for whom under the Radiation Protection Act (StrlSchG)?
- determine the specific activity of certain radionuclides and
- calculate the activity index from this in accordance with Annex 17 StrlSchV
before placing the products on the market.
In indoor spaces regularly occupied by people, the reference level for gamma radiation from construction products is 1 millisievert per calendar year. The activity index was introduced for the purposes of simplification. If the activity index determined is less than or equal to 1, the reference level of 1 millisievert per calendar year for the effective dose is deemed to be complied with and the construction product can be placed on the market without restrictions (cf. Section 135(1) StrlSchG).
If the activity index determined exceeds the permissible level of 1, the manufacturer or importer must notify the competent authority immediately. Within one month of such notification, the competent authority can then order measures to ensure that the reference level is adhered to when the construction product is used for buildings featuring indoor spaces regularly occupied by people or prohibit its use (cf. Section 135(3) StrlSchG). The construction product may only be placed on the market after the one-month period has expired or in compliance with the measures ordered by the competent authority.
The obligated party, i.e. the manufacturer or importer, must also inform those involved in construction about the restrictions that have been ordered. If these persons are not known, the construction product must be provided with accompanying documents indicating the applicable use restrictions (cf. Section 135(4) StrlSchG).
Who is obliged to provide information?
If you manufacture construction products in Germany or import them into the country, and these products contain mineral primary raw materials (in accordance with Annex 9 StrlSchG) or residues (in accordance with Annex 1 StrlSchG), you are obliged to determine the specific activity of the radionuclides radium-226, thorium-232 (or radium-228) and potassium-40.
If the specific activity index (see Annex 17 StrlSchV) exceeds the permissible reference level, you must notify the competent authority immediately.
Also note your obligation to inform those involved in construction.
Which body is the competent authority? When is DIBt the competent authority?
The federal states are responsible for enforcing the Radiation Protection Act (StrlSchG). Each federal state determines the 'competent authority' for its territory.
Currently, DIBt is the competent authority for the federal states of Bavaria, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thuringia. Further federal states have announced plans to delegate this task to DIBt.
Our contact data:
As a manufacturer and importer of construction products containing radiologically relevant mineral primary raw materials or residues, what other information obligations do you have?
If you duly notified the competent authority that a product exceeds the permissible levels and the competent authority has ordered measures for its use, you as the obligated party must inform the owner, the designer and the contractor within the meaning of the Building Code of the relevant federal state of any restriction ordered. If these persons are not known to you, the construction product must be provided with accompanying documents clearly stating the applicable use restrictions (cf. Section 135(4) StrlSchG).
What measures can the competent authority order to ensure protection against radiation from construction products?
One possible measure is to restrict the area for which the construction product can be used e.g. only for walls, floors or ceilings.
For construction products consisting of different admixed components (e.g. concrete, bricks), the proportion of the relevant ingredients can be limited to comply with the activity index of the resulting construction product.
Under which conditions can the determination of the specific activity for a construction product be dispensed with?
If construction products are not used for the construction of buildings with indoor spaces regularly occupied by people, they can be placed on the market without the need to determine the specific activities mentioned above, but only with the aforementioned use restriction.
Which deadlines apply?
The manufacturer or importer of the construction product must notify the competent authority immediately if the effective dose likely to be emitted by the construction product exceeds the reference level.
Pursuant to Section 135(3) StrlSchG, the competent authority may order restrictive measures or prohibit the use of the construction product within one month after receipt of this notification.
Questions concerning the determination and transmission of values
What reference level applies for the effective dose from external radiation exposure in indoor spaces regularly occupied by people?
The reference level for the effective dose from external exposure of members of the public in indoor spaces regularly occupied by people to gamma radiation from construction products is 1 millisievert per calendar year in addition to the effective dose from external exposure outdoors.
The reference level of 1 millisievert per calendar year is deemed to be complied with if the activity index determined does not exceed the level of 1.
External radiation exposure, which also includes terrestrial radiation, is caused by naturally occurring radioactive substances that are present in the soils and rock layers of the earth's crust and vary in concentration regionally. These stones and soils are important mineral raw materials for construction. Thus, radionuclides contained therein can transit into the construction products and contribute to external radiation exposure for persons using the respective buildings.
How is an indoor space regularly occupied by people defined under the Radiation Protection Act?
Pursuant to Section 5(5) of the Radiation Protection Act (StrlSchG), an indoor space regularly occupied by people is defined as follows:
'Indoor space regularly occupied by people: indoor space intended for more than just a passing stay of members of the public, for example in a school, hospital, kindergarten or for living.'
How does the Radiation Protection Act define construction products?
Section 5(6) of the Radiation Protection Act (StrlSchG) defines construction products as follows:
'Construction products: building materials, kits, components and installations manufactured to be permanently incorporated as wall, floor or ceiling constructions, including their claddings, of indoor spaces regularly occupied by people in buildings. This does not include finished products used for a small area and in a small amount, such as repair mortars and grouts.'
For which radionuclides must the specific activity (gamma radiation) be measured?
Before a construction product can be placed on the market, the specific activity of the radionuclides radium-226, thorium-232, or its decay product radium-228, and potassium-40 must be determined.
How can the specific activity of the relevant radionuclides be determined?
The specific activity of radium-226, thorium-232 and potassium-40 is measured by means of gamma spectrometry (DIN CEN/TS 17216:2018).
The following test standards/instructions containing specifications on how to prepare test specimens/test quantities are considered suitable reference methods by DIBt:
- DIN CEN/TS 17216:2018: Construction products – Assessment of release of dangerous substances – Determination of activity concentrations of radium-226, thorium-232 and potassium-40 in construction products using semiconductor gamma-ray spectrometry
- Measuring instructions for monitoring radioactivity in the environment and for detecting radioactive emissions from nuclear installations (only available in German: Messanleitungen für die Überwachung der Radioaktivität in der Umwelt und zur Erfassung radioaktiver Emissionen aus kerntechnischen Anlagen)
Published by: German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety
- DIN EN ISO 18589-3:2007: Measurement of radioactivity in the environment – Soil – Part 3: Measurement of gamma-emitting radionuclides
Significant deviations from the measurement method used must be stated and justified in detail.
Which test laboratories can determine the specific activity of the relevant radionuclides?
The Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle GmbH (DAkkS) is the national accreditation body of the Federal Republic of Germany. It acts under Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 and the Accreditation Body Act (AkkStelleG) in the public interest and is the sole accreditation provider in Germany. To obtain a list of test laboratories that you can contact to have the specific activity of the relevant radionuclides determined, you can use the DAkks database for accredited bodies.
How is the activity index determined?
The activity index must be calculated in accordance with Annex 17 of the Radiation Protection Ordinance (StrlSchV).
If the activity index determined exceeds 1, you must notify the competent authority immediately. What information does DIBt need as the competent authority?
DIBt requires the following information that you used to calculate the activity index:
- Activity concentration Ra-226 [Bq/kg]
- Activity concentration Th-232 [Bq/kg]
- Activity concentration K-40 [Bq/kg]
- Thickness [m]
- Density [kg/m³]
- Activity index determined
- Used on / in building
- Primary raw material / residue used
(information in accordance with the Radiation Protection Act (StrlSchG), Annex 1 or 9)
- Percentage by weight in the construction product [% by weight].
If the construction product comprises several components (e.g. multi-layer design), the design of the construction product must also be communicated. Please also indicate in which layer the primary raw material/residue is used.
Please use the following form:
Where can I find further information on the topic of 'radiation from construction products'?
The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) pools expertise in the field of radiation protection, including effects and risks of ionising and non-ionising radiation, radiological accident management, monitoring of environmental radioactivity and medical and occupational radiation protection.