Date released: Apr 25 2016, 11:43 AM
Fourteen homes in Co. Clare have tested high for the cancer causing gas radon so far this year. Figures released today by the EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection show that homes with high levels of naturally occurring radon have been found in Ennis, Clarecastle, Corofin, Ennistymon, Tulla and Quin. One home in Ennis had over nine times the acceptable level. For the occupants of this home, the radiation dose they are exposed to is equivalent to receiving about 6 chest X-rays every day.
The EPA conducted a radon awareness campaign in the county last November as radon gas levels are high in Co Clare. Alison Dowdall, Scientist with the EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection said:
“Co. Clare is a high risk county so it is encouraging to know that more than 10,000 Clare people are living in homes that have been tested for radon. However, we remain concerned that a lot of families in Clare are unaware that they are being exposed to high levels of this radioactive gas.”
Radon is the second most common cause of lung cancer after smoking and is linked to some 250 lung cancer cases each year. Alison Dowdall said,
“Radon is only a problem if it is ignored. Solutions are available to reduce high levels in the home. 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.”
A radon test is available from the EPA and other suppliers and costs about €50. The cost of reducing radon in your home can vary up to an average of €925 for the most effective solution. Detailed information - available on the EPA’s website or by phoning Freefone 1800 300 600 - is provided on radon, its risks, how to get your home or workplace tested, a list of test suppliers, and how to reduce high levels if needed.
Notes to Editor
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the national competent authority for matters to do with ionising radiation. Over the last number of years the EPA has conducted comprehensive public information campaigns on the risks from radon in Counties Sligo, Carlow, Waterford, South Tipperary, Galway, North Kerry, Wexford, Louth, Kilkenny and Mayo. The most recent campaign took place in Co. Clare.
Radon in Co. Clare
Testing by the EPA shows that Co. Clare homes are at high risk of having unsafe levels of radon. Areas that are known to be at particular risk include Ennis, Clarecastle, Lisdoonvarna, Corofin and Ballyvaughan. The home with the highest levels of radon to date in Clare was measured near Lisdoonvarna at 3,500 Bq/m3 – almost 18 times the Reference Level (or acceptable level) of 200 Bq/m3. The radiation dose received by the occupants of this house would have been equivalent to receiving 12 chest X-rays every day.
What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that originates from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. It has no smell, colour or taste and can only be detected using special 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. This gives rise to a radiation dose, which may cause lung cancer.
The national Reference Level (or acceptable level) for radon in homes is 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). The becquerel is the unit of radioactivity. A 'High Radon Area' is one in which more than 10 per cent of homes are predicted to have radon levels in excess of the national Reference Level.
Measuring for Radon
Measuring for radon and, in the event of a high reading, fixing the problem are both easy to do. To test for radon, one radon detector is placed in a bedroom and the second in a living room for a three-month period. The detectors are sent and returned by post for analysis. The EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection and a number of private companies provide a radon measurement service. The cost of a measurement is around €50 depending on which measurement company is chosen. Where elevated levels of radon are found there are a number of straightforward options that can be used to reduce radon in the home.
Data for all radon measurements, undertaken by the EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection since the early 1990s to-date, is available here. Since establishing its radon measurement programme in the early 1990s, the EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection has measured almost 60,000 homes in Ireland. Of these, almost 8,500 were found to have unacceptably high levels of radon. Measuring for radon and, in the event of a high reading, fixing the problem are both easy to do.
Specific guidance on radon prevention measures for new homes is contained in the “Building Regulations 1997, Technical Guidance Document C – site preparation and resistance to moisture” which is published by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government. The guidance specifies that all new homes, built since 1st July 1998, must be fitted with a standby radon sump which can be activated at a later stage to reduce any high radon concentrations subsequently found. For homes built in High Radon Areas, the installation of a radon barrier as well as a standby radon sump is required.
An interactive map is available on the EPA’s website (http://www.epa.ie/radiation/) so that anyone can search for their address or nearest town to see whether their home or workplace is in a High Radon Area. They can find out what they need to know about radon – what it is, why it is a problem and how they can have a measurement made. Information can also be obtained by phoning Freefone 1800 300 600.