RPII holds National Radon Forum to highlight risks of radon gas

Date released: Nov 14 2005

Today in Tralee the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is hosting the fourth National Radon Forum. The Forum is a public meeting which provides an opportunity for Government agencies, architects, engineers, radon measurement and remediation companies and interested members of the public to discuss the radon issue. The RPII has estimated that up to 200 people each year in Ireland develop lung cancer as a result of exposure to radon gas.

Speaking at the Forum today Dr. Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII, said "Exposure to radon in homes and workplaces is a real issue in Ireland and people seem unaware of the risks. A recent study of 7,000 lung cancer cases in Europe, one of the largest epidemiological investigations ever carried out into residential radon exposure, confirms the estimate of the number of deaths in Ireland attributable to radon".

Employers and workers throughout the country, particularly those in High Radon Areas, need to be aware of the potential health effects of radon in the workplace. According to the Health and Safety Authority all indoor workplaces in High Radon Areas located at ground or basement level must be measured for radon.

In her opening speech Dr. McGarry stated "Radon is an issue that employers need to take action on. Last year the RPII directed 60 employers in Tralee and Ennis to measure radon. A number of these did not comply with the direction and prosecutions are pending. Some of these cases may come before the courts before the end of this year".

Detailed information on radon and its risks, including information on how to get your home or workplace tested for radon is available on the RPII’s website or can be obtained on freefone 1800 300 600 or by texting the word RADON followed by your name and address to 53377. (Texts cost maximum 15 cents).

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 cause lung cancer.

The national Reference Level for radon in homes is 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). The national Reference Level for radon in workplaces is 400 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). The Becquerel is the unit of radioactivity. The RPII estimates that up to 91,000 homes in the country have radon concentrations above the national Reference Level.

High Radon Areas are shown on maps published on the RPII website. A High Radon Area is an area where more than 10% of the dwellings are predicted to have annual average radon concentrations above the national reference level. Approximately 33% of the country is classified as a High Radon Area. These areas are most prevalent in the South-East and the West.

The RPII advises all householders, particularly those living in High Radon Areas, to have their homes tested for radon. Testing for radon 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.

Long term exposure to radon increases the risk of lung cancer. Radon can be linked to up to 200 lung cancer cases in Ireland every year. For people who smoke, or who have smoked, the risk from radon is can be up to 25 times greater than for people who never smoked.

The Radiological Protection Act 1991, (Ionising Radiation) Order, 2000. S.I. No. 125 of 2000 empowers the RPII to direct employers to carry out radon measurements in their workplace. Once directed an employer has six months to complete the measurement and inform the RPII of the result.