One in six homes tested in Mayo has unacceptably high levels of radon

Date released: Nov 14 2014, 12:31 PM

One in six homes tested in Mayo has unacceptably high levels of radon
Exposure to High Radon Levels found in Mayo is Equivalent to 21 Chest X-Rays Per Day -

  • The EPA has measured 4,400 houses in Mayo and 17% per cent have unacceptable levels of radon.
  • Radon is a cancerous gas linked to up to 250 lung cancer cases per year.
  • Highest home tested found in Mayo was 31 times the national recommended level.
  • This level can deliver a radiation dose equivalent to 21 chest X-rays per day.


The EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection has today launched a dedicated communications campaign to generate awareness of the dangerously high levels of radon gas in Co. Mayo.  Radon gas is a naturally occurring cause of lung cancer. The EPA is encouraging householders across Mayo to order an easy to use, inexpensive radon test for their homes, as a matter of urgency to ensure that they are not being exposed to this cancer causing gas, which is colourless, odourless and tasteless.

Mayo has one of the highest incidences of radon in homes in the country, according to the EPA. Many parts of Mayo are deemed High Radon Areas where more than 10% of homes tested are known to have unacceptable levels of radon. Homes with high levels of radon have been consistently found in Ballina, Claremorris, Ballyhaunis and Crossmolina.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Stephanie Long, Senior Scientist in the EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection said:

"One in six homes tested in Mayo has an unsafe level of radon, a cancerous gas linked to up to 250 lung cancer cases per year in Ireland. If everyone had their homes tested these could be prevented as reducing high radon concentrations is relatively straightforward and inexpensive.

To date, the EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection has measured 4,400 houses in Mayo and 17% per cent of these have been found to have levels above the national reference level. The highest reading we found was 31 times the national recommended level. Living in a house with this level of radon can deliver a radiation dose equivalent to 21 chest X-rays per day."

Dr Seamus O’Reilly, Consultant Medical Oncologist at the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital in Cork, says that between 150 and 250 preventable cancer deaths occur in Ireland every year because of unsafe levels of radon gas in buildings.

Dr O’Reilly said,

"Studies have found that smokers living in homes with unsafe levels of radon have a far greater risk of developing lung cancer as a result. There is no effective screening test for lung cancer, so if you discover high radon levels in your home and show no signs of ill health, we would advise measures to reduce cancer risk such as smoking cessation and remedial work to your house. If you have symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, weight loss or if you are coughing up blood then you should see your GP immediately."

The EPA will host two public meetings in Ballina on Thursday the 20th of November in the Twin Trees Hotel at 14.30 pm and at 19.30 pm. The EPA is inviting homeowners, GPs and public representatives to attend these information meetings to learn about the importance of getting homes in Mayo tested for radon gas and to learn more about the health effects of this silent killer.

"Radon is a problem only if ignored", said Stephanie Long.

"If there is a high radon level in your house, it is being inhaled by the people living there right now, every day. It can cause lung cancer and you and your family may be at risk from high levels in your home. Reducing the radon concentration will immediately reduce the risk from lung cancer. If test results show that a moderate radon level is found, improving indoor ventilation may reduce the level by up to half, the cost of which is low. For higher levels, a fan assisted ‘sump’ can be installed which can reduce radon levels by over 90 per cent. The sump can be installed in a day by a contractor with little disruption to the home."

As part of this communications campaign, all householders in Mayo will receive an information pack with information on the effects of radon in the home, how to apply for a radon test and advice on how to solve the problem, if it is found. Information literature will also be sent to GP offices so that health care centres can advise patients on the harmful affects of radon on people’s health.

In February this year, the Government published the National Radon Control Strategy (NRCS) for Ireland.  An important recommendation of the NRCS is to implement local radon awareness campaigns in radon risk areas. County Mayo is one such area and this is the second communications campaign to be rolled out under the new strategy.

"Get the test, find out, and get the problem fixed if you have high levels. To find out more or to get your house tested, log on to www.epa.ie or freephone 1800 300 600 right now and order your detectors today" said Stephanie Long.

ENDS

For further information please contact:   
Orlaith McCarthy, PR Executive, Carr Communications.
Direct phone: 01 7728938.  Mobile: 087 9757239

 
Notes for the Editor:

What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas formed 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.   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.

Local radon awareness campaigns in radon risk areas
In February 2014 the Government published the National Radon Control Strategy (NRCS) for Ireland.  An important recommendation of the NRCS is to implement broadly based local radon awareness campaigns in radon risk areas. County Mayo is one such area.  To date, the EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection has measured 4,400 houses in Mayo and seventeen per cent have been found to have levels above the national reference level of 200 Bq/m3. The highest reading found amounted to 6,200 Bq/m3.  Living in a house with this level of radon can deliver a radiation dose equivalent to 21 chest X-rays per day.

Testing a home
The cost of testing your home varies depending on which test supplier you choose, but is in the region of €50. Two small detectors are sent to your home, placed in the bedroom and living room, the rooms most occupied by the family, and after three months they are returned to the testing company to be analysed and the results are then given to the householder together with some advice on what to do next. The whole process is done by post and there is no need for anyone to visit your home.

What can be done to reduce high radon concentrations in a home?
Radon problems in a home can be fixed easily, relatively inexpensively and usually without disruption to the household. A booklet entitled Understanding Radon Remediation – A Householder’s Guide will help you learn more about the solutions available and how best to deal with the problem. In addition, the EPA holds a list of companies who are known to provide a radon remediation service.
Technical guidance on radon remediation techniques is available from the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government and in a booklet entitled Radon in Existing Buildings – Corrective Options.

EPA’s Office of Office of Radiological Protection
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) merged on 1st August 2014.  Radiological protection functions are carried out by the newly established Office of Radiological Protection within the EPA. A dedicated section about radiological protection is available on the EPA website.

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