EPA urges homeowners in Wicklow to take the radon test. Avoca home tested with levels 30 times higher than acceptable

Date released: Jul 25 2017

EPA urges homeowners in Wicklow to take the radon test

Avoca home tested with levels 30 times higher than acceptable

Almost 200 Wicklow homeowners have carried out a radon test in their homes since the Environmental Protection Agency ran an awareness campaign in the county last November.  EPA results to date show that 33 homes - in areas including Arklow, Aughrim, Avoca, Baltinglass, Blessington and Rathdrum – had radon levels above the acceptable level.  One home in Avoca had 30 times the acceptable level of the cancer causing gas. The radiation dose to the occupants of this home is equivalent to receiving about 20 chest X-rays per day.

Radon is a radioactive gas linked to up to 250 lung cancer cases each year in Ireland and is the second most common cause of lung cancer after smoking. County Wicklow has one of the highest incidences of homes with high radon levels in the country.

Ms Stephanie Long, Senior Scientist at the EPA said:

“The families that have tested their homes have done the right thing to address the radon problem in Wicklow.  However, with much of the county categorised as high risk, many householders remain unaware that they may be unnecessarily living with higher levels of this radioactive gas which is linked to lung cancer. 

“The good news is that testing for radon is really simple - one radon detector is placed in a bedroom and a second in the living room. The detectors are small and are sent and returned by post.  In the event of a high reading, reducing radon levels is also straightforward.  Remediation work is usually completed within one day where sumps are installed from outside the home so there is no need to dig up internal floors”. 

A set of radon detectors costs about €50 and is available from the EPA and other registered testing services. The cost of reducing radon in your home can vary, but the average cost of installing the most effective solution is about €925.  The EPA provides a list of registered remediators. Detailed information on radon, its risks, how to get your home or workplace tested and lists of registered testing and remediating services is available on http://www.epa.ie/radon/ or Freefone 1800 300 600.

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

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 Wicklow is one such area. 
To date, the EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection and Environmental Monitoring has measured almost 2,600 houses in Wicklow and sixteen per cent have been found to have levels above the national reference level of 200 Bq/m3. The highest reading found amounted to 16,400 Bq/m3.  Living in a house with this level of radon can deliver a radiation dose equivalent to 54 chest X-rays per day. The EPA estimates that around 7,000 people in Wicklow are living in homes that have been tested for radon but there are many more people unknowingly living in homes with unacceptable levels of this cancer causing gas.
Testing a home
The cost of testing your home varies depending on which registered testing service 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.  A list of registered testing services is available on http://www.epa.ie/radon/

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 EPA provides a list of registered remediation services on http://www.epa.ie/radon/  Guidance on remediation methods is also available on http://www.epa.ie/radon/.

Radon and selling your home:
Since January 2017 the Law Society of Ireland includes three questions relating to radon gas in their Conditions of Sale document used during the sale of homes.  The revised document means that the vendor’s solicitor will ask the vendor the following questions:

  1. Has a radon test been carried out?
  2. If a radon test has been carried out, please supply the report.
  3. Has any action to reduce radon levels been undertaken?

This information will then be passed on to the buyer's solicitor.  If the buyer has any concerns their solicitor will advise that they get expert advice.  There is however, no requirement for a homeowner to test or remediate their home for radon before selling it.