RPII urges people to test for cancer causing radon gas

Date released: Dec 11 2003

RPII publish Annual Report for 2002

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has today, Thursday 11th December 2003, renewed its call for employers and people living in High Radon Areas, to have tests carried out to measure the levels of radon gas, which occurs naturally and is known to cause lung cancer.

Speaking on the publication of its 2002 Annual Report, the Institute Chairman Dr Frank Mulligan, described as disappointing, the response by the public and employers to calls from the Institute to test for radon gas, which may be responsible for up to 200 cancer deaths per year in Ireland.

"People can be exposed to radon in the home, in schools and in the workplace. The Institute’s radon maps identify those parts of the country where buildings are most likely to have high radon levels. However, the only way to know for sure if your home or workplace has a radon problem is to have the building tested. We urge people to have a test done so that if there is a high level they can take steps to remedy the problem, he said."

Also commenting today Dr Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII said: "It is vital that employers take the issue of radon seriously and make themselves aware of the risk factors. New legislation introduced in 2000, taken together with existing health and safety legislation, makes it mandatory for all employers in High Radon Areas to have their workplaces tested for radon. Maps showing High Radon Areas are available on the website.  Testing is a simple, inexpensive process and involves placing small pocket size detectors inside the building for 12 to 14 weeks and then posting them back to the testing lab for the results. If high levels of radon are found remediation measures can work effectively and quickly, as the results of the schools radon programme highlighted in the Annual Report show."

The RPII is the national organisation with regulatory, monitoring and advisory responsibilities in matters pertaining to ionising radiation. In particular the Institute concerns itself with hazards to health associated with ionising radiation in the workplace and with radioactive contamination in the environment.

Some key developments during 2002, which are highlighted in the Annual Report published today, are:

  • Studies carried out by the Institute in 97 schools that have been remediated to reduce levels of radon gas, found that the remediation works achieved an average reduction of 81% in those schools with the higher levels.
  • Radon in drinking water has also been identified by the Institute as a pathway of radiation exposure that may pose a significant additional health risk, in the longer term, to some consumers who depend on private groundwater supplies as their primary source of water.
  • The Institute continued to develop its capacity to fulfill its role under the National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents. As part of a review of resources in this area a substantial investment in the national network of fixed radiation monitoring stations has been sought from Government.
  • Two new Directives are proposed by the European Commission to ensure a high level of nuclear safety in all Member States. The Directives oblige Member States to provide adequate resources to support the safety of nuclear installations and to cover decommissioning costs, and to make suitable arrangements for the management of radioactive waste.
  • The announcement of the early closure by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd of the Calder Hall reactors on the Sellafield site is welcomed by the Institute as these particular reactors had been a cause for concern due to their age and lack of secondary containment.
  • A new initiative in co-operation with Food Safety Authority of Ireland will strengthen the assessment of radiation exposure due to the Irish diet.

Ends.

Download full report: Annual Report and Accounts, 2002