European Radon Day: EPA calls for homeowners to test their homes for cancer-causing radon

Date released: Nov 06 2017, 11:21 AM

  • Radon is a radioactive, cancer-causing gas
  • Radon is the second cause of lung cancer, after smoking
  • 250 lung cancer cases in Ireland each year are linked to exposure to radon
  • It is easy to test your home for radon
  • It is easy to reduce radon levels in your home

On European Radon Day, the EPA is calling on all householders to test their homes for this cancer-causing radioactive gas.  Radon is second only to smoking as the leading cause of lung cancer.  It is estimated that some 250 lung cancer cases each year in Ireland are linked to radon exposure.

Radon comes from rocks and soils and can get into your home through small cracks and openings in the foundations of a house or gaps around service pipes. Because radon has no colour, taste or smell the only way to know how much radon is in your home is to take a simple radon test. The test costs about €50 and can be ordered from one of the services registered with the EPA.  Two small detectors, about the size of a biscuit, are delivered to you by post and placed in your home. After three months, they are then posted back to the laboratory, where they are analysed to see how much radon they have been exposed to. The results are then posted back to you.

Stephanie Long, Senior Scientist with the EPA said:

“More than 62,000 homes in Ireland have been tested for radon so far.  If you haven’t already done so, we would urge you to protect your family’s health by taking this simple and inexpensive test as soon as possible.  So far, we have identified almost 8,800 homes with levels of radon above the acceptable level - some homes have had extremely high levels.  The good news is that radon is easy to test and simple solutions are available to reduce high levels where necessary.  Give yourself and your family peace of mind and take the radon test today”.

One homeowner that has taken the radon test is clinical psychologist Dr Clare Kambamettu who measured high radon levels in her Galway home.  She had a radon sump installed which very successfully solved the problem for her. 

Clare commented:

“We were so worried when we got our radon test results back initially and thought it would be an impossible problem to solve. The staff in the EPA were very informative when it came to helping us understand our options and the remediation works were quick, easy and effective! No more worrying about radon!”

There are several ways of reducing radon, the two most common are by improving ventilation or installing what is known as an active radon sump. The EPA can provide you with a list of registered companies who can do this work for you. All the advice and information you need is on the website or you can contact the Environmental Protection Agency directly on Free Phone 1800 300 600 or radon@epa.ie. 

Notes to Editor

The EPA is the national competent authority for all matters to do with ionising radiation. 

What is Radon?

Radon is a lung carcinogen and is linked to some 250 lung cancer cases each year in Ireland, making it a serious public health hazard. Radon is a radioactive gas formed naturally in the ground from the radioactive decay of uranium which is present in all rocks and soils.  It has no smell, colour or taste and can only be detected using radon detectors.  Outdoors, radon quickly dilutes to harmless concentrations but when it enters an enclosed space, such as a house or other building, it can accumulate to unacceptably high concentrations. 

Testing for and reducing radon levels

A radon test costs about €50 and is simple to carry out.  Two small detectors, about the size of a biscuit, are delivered to you by post and placed in your home. After three months, they are then posted back to the laboratory, where they are analysed to see how much radon they have been exposed to. The results are then posted back to you. Find out more on the website where you will find a list of measurement services registered with the EPA.

Radon levels can be reduced by improving ventilation or installing what is known as an active radon sump. The EPA can provide you with a list of registered remediation services companies who can do this work for you.

Is every house affected?

Radon can be found in any home and every household’s radon levels are different. The EPA strongly encourages all households to take the radon test. If there is a high radon level in a house, it puts householders and their families at increased risk of lung cancer.  Some areas, called High Radon Areas, are more likely to have a radon problem than others.  To find out if your home is in a High Radon Area, simply type your address into the interactive radon map on the EPA’s website.

How are new homes protected from radon?

The Building Regulations require that all new homes built since 1998 in High Radon Areas are installed with a radon barrier.  The Construction Industry Federation offers training courses for site staff in the installation of radon barriers.  As having a radon barrier is not a guarantee that a home will have low levels of radon, even homes with radon barriers installed should be tested for radon. All new homes are also installed with a standby radon sump which can be activated if necessary.

Buying a home and radon

In January 2017 the Law Society of Ireland included three questions relating to radon gas in their Conditions of Sale document used during the sale of homes.  The revised document means that the vendor’s solicitor will ask the vendor the following questions:

  1. Has a radon test been carried out?
  2. If a radon test has been carried out, please supply the report.
  3. Has any action to reduce radon levels been undertaken?

This information will then be passed on to the buyer's solicitor.  If the buyer has any concerns their solicitor will advise that they get expert advice.  There is however, no requirement for a homeowner to test or remediate their home for radon before selling it. 

The National Radon Control Strategy

To address radon as a public health hazard, the Government published the 4-year National Radon Control Strategy (NRCS) in 2014. The aim of the strategy is to reduce the number of lung cancer cases in Ireland.  The NRCS has been implemented since 2014 by a Cross-Government group led by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.  In 2018 the NRCS will be reviewed and Phase 2 developed to ensure radon continues to be tackled by Government into the future.

European Radon Day – 7th November

European Radon Day was established in 2015 by the European Radon Association.  November 7th marks the birthday of Dr. Marie Curie who received two Nobel prizes for her research on radioactivity.

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