EPA warns that failure to carry out remediation work after testing high for radon gas is a serious health risk

Date released: Nov 07 2019

 EPA warns that failure to carry out remediation work after testing high for radon gas is a serious health risk

  • Radon is invisible, colourless and odourless - and causes around 300 cases of lung cancer in Ireland every year
  • About 5,000 householders in Ireland have taken immediate action and had their homes tested for radon following radon awareness campaigns in their area 
  • One in 6 of these were found to have high radon levels
  • Too many homeowners are putting their health at risk by not carrying out vital remediation work

7th November 2019: On European Radon Day today, Thursday 7th November, the EPA is calling on all householders - to take action to protect themselves and their families. In these homes, remedial action should be carried out as a matter of urgency to reduce exposure to radon.

Radon is second only to smoking as the leading cause of lung cancer.  It is estimated that about 300 lung cancer cases each year in Ireland are linked to radon exposure.  Reducing high radon levels will, over time, save lives.
Radon is easy to test for and easy to fix, so learning more about what it is, and how you can protect yourself is critical. The World Health Organisation has categorised radon as a Group 1 carcinogen, in the same group as asbestos and tobacco smoke.

Stephanie Long, Senior Scientist, Environmental Protection Agency said:

“Radon is invisible, colourless and odourless. It is present in all Irish homes and it is estimated that up to 500,000 people are living in homes with radon levels above the acceptable level of 200 Bq/m3. Many Irish homes still need to carry out a radon test or they could be completely unaware of the potential problem in their own home. Testing your home to identify if you have a problem is the first step.”

“Radon is only a problem if it is ignored. If there is a high radon level in your home, it is exposing you and your family to an unnecessary radiation dose. Radon is present in all homes however, levels can vary. Just because your neighbour’s home has been deemed safe from radon does not mean you are safe. If you haven’t already done so, we would urge you to protect your family’s health by carrying out remediation work as soon as possible”.

You can visit www.radon.ie to find out how to test your home and keep you and your family safe. Reducing radon levels is simple and inexpensive and will immediately reduce the risk of developing lung cancer. For moderate levels of radon, 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.

Get the test, find out, and in the event of a high reading it is easy to fix. Give yourself and your family the peace of mind that your home is safe. For more information and to find a list of registered radon remediation services visit www.radon.ie.

Further information: Niamh Hatchell/ Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie

Notes to the Editor:

What is Radon?
Radon is a 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 levels but when it enters an enclosed space, such as a house or other building, it can accumulate to unacceptably high levels. Radon is a lung carcinogen and is linked to some 300 lung cancer cases each year in Ireland making it a serious public health hazard.

About a third of Ireland is classified as a high radon area by the EPA, however, the EPA recommends that homeowners in all areas test their homes for radon. Ireland has relatively high indoor radon levels, with an average indoor level of 77 Bq/m3, compared to the worldwide average of 39 Bq/m3.

Testing a home
Two small detectors are sent to your home, one is placed in the bedroom and one in the living room, the rooms most occupied by the family. After three months they are returned to the service provider for analysis. The results will be sent to you 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.

Where can I get a radon test
You can find a list of EPA registered radon measurement services and details about how to test and fix your home on www.radon.ie. Radon testing costs on average €60.

What can be done to reduce high radon levels 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.

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 membrane.  The Construction Industry Federation offers training courses for site staff in the installation of radon membranes.  However, having a radon membrane is not a guarantee that a home will have low levels of radon. Therefore, even homes with radon membranes installed should be tested for radon. All new homes are also installed with a standby radon sump which can be activated if necessary.

What is European Radon Day?
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, South Tipperary, Galway, North Kerry, Wexford, Louth, Tipperary, Mayo and Clare and Wicklow.  Since 2017, the EPA has held a public information campaign to mark European Radon Day (7th November).  European Radon Day marks the birthday of Marie Curie, who won two Nobel prizes for her work on radioactivity.

The National Radon Control Strategy
To address radon as a public health hazard, the Government published its first  National Radon Control Strategy (NRCS) in 2014. The aim of the strategy is to reduce the number of lung cancer cases in Ireland.  In February this year, new legislation was put in place which requires Ireland to have a national radon action plan. The second phase of the NRCS was launched in May 2019 and addresses this requirement. The NRCS is implemented by a Cross-Government group led by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.