North-West at risk from cancer-causing radon gas

Date released: Feb 18 2005

RPII to highlight Radon danger in Ballina and Sligo

One in five homes in north Mayo and Sligo may be exposed to high levels of the cancer-causing gas radon, which is responsible for up to 200 cases of lung cancer deaths in Ireland each year, according to the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII). The RPII will visit Ballina from 22nd to 24th February as part of a comprehensive awareness campaign to highlight the risks of exposure to the gas.

“Much of Mayo and Sligo are classified as High Radon Areas and many residents of the region are receiving significant radiation doses which they don’t know about. Testing in the home is relatively easy and in workplaces it is actually required by law. We want to reach as many people as possible on our visit to let them know about radon, and most importantly how they can reduce or eliminate the risk to themselves, their families and employees”, said Mr David Fenton, manager of the RPII’s Radon Advice Section.

Radon measurement in workplaces is important as health and safety legislation requires all employers in High Radon Areas to have radon measurements carried out. The RPII recommends that all employers in other areas adopt a pro-active approach and measure for radon.

“The dangers posed by radon gas in the Ballina and Sligo areas should not be underestimated. Over the course of three days we want to meet with everyone we can to outline the dangers of radon and preventative measures that should be taken. People can come to our stand in the Dunnes Stores mall and we are also happy to go directly to any businesses that would like to find out more” said Mr Fenton.

Radon is estimated to cause 150-200 cases of lung cancers each year, or ten to 15 per cent of all such cases in Ireland. It is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced in all rocks and soils and because it is a gas it can move relatively freely through the ground entering buildings through any cracks or gaps that exist in floors. In certain circumstances radon can build up to unacceptable high concentrations becoming a health risk to the occupants of a building.

Testing for indoor radon is straightforward and inexpensive so there is no need for anyone to live with the risk of radon. Testing involves the placing of one radon detector in a bedroom and a second in a living room for a three-month period. The detectors are the size of an air freshener and can be sent and returned by post for analysis. The RPII charges €45 for this service.

If high radon concentrations are found, reducing the levels is normally straightforward and can usually be done at moderate cost. The RPII have published guidance aimed at householders advising them of the various options open to them in reducing radon concentrations in homes.

Detailed information on radon and its risks is available at the RPII’s website www.rpii.ie/radon or on freefone 1800 300 600. Information brochures and guidance for members of the public and employers can also be downloaded from our website.

The schedule for the RPII visit is as follows:

Tuesday February 22

  • The RPII will meet with representatives of Sligo Chamber of Commerce at 14:30
  • The RPII will give a presentation on radon and its implications for employers at a health and safety in the workplace seminar organised by Ballina Chamber of Commerce. This seminar will take place at the Ridgepool hotel, Ballina, starting at 20:00.

Wednesday February 23

  • RPII staff will give a presentation on radon to pupils of St Mary’s Convent of Mercy, Ballina at 9.00.
  • An RPII information stand will be in operation in the Dunnes Stores mall in Ballina from 10:30 to 18:30. Staff will be happy to meet members of the public and employers to discuss issues related to radon

Thursday February 24

  • RPII staff will remain in the area to meet employers who wish to discuss radon related issues.