Workers and employers need to be aware of radon in the workplace

Date released: Oct 23 2003

This is one of the key themes of the National Radon Forum being held today, Thursday 23rd October, in Galway.

Employers and workers throughout the country, and in particular those in designated High Radon Areas, need to be aware of the potential health effects of the gas in their working environment.

High Radon Areas, defined as any area where it is predicted that more than 10% of homes will have radon concentrations above the Reference Level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3), exist in every county but are most prevalent in the West and in the Southeast. The RPII has produced maps which clearly show the areas designated as high radon areas. These can be viewed on the website.

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 requires employers to identify the hazards at the workplace, assess the risk to health and safety from these hazards and put in place measures to eliminate or reduce the risk. According to the Health and Safety Authority there is a general duty on employers in High Radon Areas to include radon in their risk assessment. This means that radon measurements should be carried out in all indoor workplaces in these areas.

Speaking at the Forum today: Dr. Tony Colgan, a Principal Scientific Officer at the RPII, said: “According to the World Health Organisation, radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer, after smoking, accounting for approximately 10% of all lung cancer deaths worldwide. It is therefore an issue that needs to be taken seriously.

“There is now an onus on employers to establish if they are in a High Radon Area and if they are, to then proceed with a test of the workplace. The test is simple and inexpensive and can be carried out by an approved radon measurement laboratory. Workers also need to take responsibility for the issue and insist on knowing if their place of work has been tested and if a high level is found that remediation work has been carried out.”

The second Irish National Radon Forum is taking place today in Galway and is organised under the ERRICCA banner in Ireland by the RPII and Remedia Ltd. ERRICCA is a part of an EU programme to increase awareness of radon by bringing together representatives from national agencies, professionals such as architects and engineers, researchers and the radon measurement and remediation industries to discuss and debate issues of mutual interest.

Ends.

Notes to Editors:

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It is colourless, odourless and tasteless and can only be measured using specialised equipment. It is formed in the ground by the radioactive decay of uranium which is present in variable quantities in all rocks and soils.

Being a gas, radon has the ability to move through the soil and enter buildings through small cracks, holes or imperfections that may exist in the floor area.

Once in a building radon quickly decays to produce radioactive particles which are suspended in the air. When inhaled these particles can be deposited in the airways and attach themselves to lung tissue. This gives rise to a radiation dose which may eventually cause lung cancer.