Radon: the Silent Killer. EPA calls for people living in high radon areas to test their homes for radon

Date released: Nov 28 2016

  • Over 4,700 householders in Ireland have taken immediate action and had their homes tested for radon following radon awareness campaigns in their area
  • 733 of these homes were found to have raised radon levels, and nearly 80 had extremely high levels
  • The highest home tested in Ireland was found to have over 24 times the acceptable level; this level can deliver a radiation dose equivalent to 17 chest X-rays every day

The EPA is calling on people in High Radon Areas to test their homes for radon.  Since 2010 the EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection has carried out awareness campaigns in the 12 radon priority counties and undertaken testing for 4,700 householders. Of the homes tested, over 700 had raised radon levels and almost 80 had extremely high radon levels. 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. 

To find out if your house is in a High Radon Area, simply type your address into the interactive radon map on the EPA’s website www.radon.ie

David Fenton, Senior Scientist with the EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection said:

“Every two days someone dies from a radon induced lung cancer in Ireland - since 2010 some 1,700 people have died from this preventable health problem.  Since beginning our campaigns we have found some extremely high radon levels in homes. The reduction of these extremely high levels will overtime save lives.  Radon is only a problem if it is ignored. You can protect your family by testing your home for radon and, where high levels are found, reducing those levels.  Fixing radon problems in a home is relatively straightforward and inexpensive.”

The EPA recently ran an information campaign in Wicklow to raise awareness and encourage people to test their homes. The campaign coincided with European Radon Awareness Day.  The EPA highlighted Wicklow as a priority county as it has one of the highest incidences of radon in homes in Ireland. One home tested in Wicklow was found to have over 80 times the national reference level or acceptable level. This level can deliver a radiation dose equivalent to 56 chest X-rays every day.  The radon levels in this house were subsequently successfully reduced.  

Mr Fenton added,

“Radon is everywhere but its risk to human health can be managed. For this reason we will continue with our awareness efforts into the future.  The EPA has undertaken targeted local campaigns most recently in Wicklow and in recent years in Sligo, Carlow, Waterford, Tipperary, Galway, Kerry, Wexford, Louth, Kilkenny, Mayo and Clare. We plan to return to Wicklow next year to build upon the outcomes of the recent campaign.”

Measuring for Radon is an inexpensive, straightforward process that is easy to do. Radon test kits can be ordered from the EPA or from other radon measurement services. The test kit includes two radon detectors - one should be placed in the bedroom and one in the living room. After three months, the detectors can be posted back to the provider. A full test report is sent by post, with advice on how to deal with high radon readings. The cost of a radon test is around €50 depending on which radon measurement company you choose. To find out more visit www.radon.ie or call 1800 300 600.

Notes to Editor

The 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, Tipperary, Galway, Kerry, Wexford, Louth, Tipperary, Mayo and Clare.

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.  

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 EPA carries out radon awareness campaigns within the framework of the National Radon Control Strategy and reaches householders through national, digital and local media. Last week’s public information campaign in Wicklow was carried out within the framework of the NRCS. 

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.

Is every house affected?

Radon can be found in any home, every household’s radon levels are different, this is why the EPA is encouraging 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. 

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, is available on www.radon.ie. In addition, the EPA holds a list of companies who are known to provide a radon remediation service and this is also available on the website.