80 homes recently tested in Mayo have unacceptably high levels of radon

Date released: Apr 09 2015

Following the Environmental Protection Agency’s campaign last November encouraging Mayo homeowners to test their homes for the radioactive gas radon, 80 homes in areas across the county including Ballina, Crossmolina, Claremorris, Kiltimagh and Castlebar tested above the acceptable level.  

 image of Radon detector

Radon is linked to up to 250 lung cancer cases each year in Ireland and is the second highest cause of lung cancer after smoking.  It accounts for more than half of the total radiation dose received by the Irish population.  County Mayo has one of the highest incidences in the country of homes with high radon levels and much of the county is categorised as high risk. However, many families in Mayo are unknowingly living with higher levels of radon gas than is acceptable as they may not have had radon levels measured.

Ms Stephanie Long, Senior Scientist at the EPA said,

“The greatest health risk from radiation in Ireland is caused by radon. The families that have had their homes tested have done the right thing in addressing the radon problem. People need to take the radon test. Many families in Mayo are unaware that they may be exposed to high levels of this radioactive gas which is linked to lung cancer.  The good news is that testing for radon and, in the event of a high reading, reducing the levels present are both straightforward.”

A radon test is available from the EPA and other suppliers and costs about €50. The cost of reducing radon in a home can vary, but the average cost of installing the most effective solution is about €850. Detailed information on radon, its risks, how to get your home or workplace tested, a list of test suppliers and how to reduce high levels is available at www.epa.ie/radiation or by calling Freefone 1800 300 600.

Notes to 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 almost 5,000 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.

Mayo radon awareness campaign
Almost 400 homeowners in the county took the radon detection test in recent months, following the EPA awareness campaign in November 2014. 

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. The booklet Understanding Radon Remediation – A Householder’s Guide will help you learn more about the solutions available and how best to deal with the problem. This is available on the EPA website. In addition, the EPA also provides 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. This booklet is available from the “Building Standards” section of the Department’s website www.environ.ie.