Radon exposes householder to equivalent of 27 chest X-rays per day

Date released: Jul 25 2006

RPII identify third highest radon result in Ireland.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) announced today that it has detected a house in Kerry with a concentration of radon gas 40 times higher than the acceptable level. This is the third highest radon gas concentration found to-date in a home in Ireland. The radiation dose received from living in the house is equivalent to receiving 27 chest X-rays per day or 10,000 per year.

The RPII informed the householder, who had undertaken a simple radon measurement, that the average level in the house was greater than 8,000 Bq/m3, or 40 times the acceptable level of 200 Bq/m3. Following advice, the householder took immediate action to fix the problem by having a radon sump installed beneath the house that prevents high radon levels ever accumulating in the house again.

Dr. Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII, said: “The identification of this house in Kerry is a further reminder that many people are living with very dangerous levels of radiation in their homes. It is unnecessary for members of the public to put themselves at risk from radon. Homeowners need to take this matter seriously and measure radon levels in their homes to ensure that they and their families are not at risk. Where there is a need to reduce levels, remediation is relatively cheap compared to other household repairs and resolves the situation immediately.”

“We estimate that there are approximately 91,000 homes in Ireland with high levels of radon gas. So far, we have only identified 3,900 of them. People are receiving radiation doses that would not be tolerated by workers in Sellafield and it is unacceptable that they may be exposed to such dangerous levels,” said Dr McGarry.

The RPII have produced a set of maps, available on their website (www.rpii.ie), indicating high radon areas – areas where more than 10% of the houses have radon levels above the acceptable level. The maps show that nearly one-third of the country is deemed a high radon area, with the southeast and west being of particular concern.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that originates from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. It is colourless, odourless and tasteless and can only be detected using special detectors. When radon surfaces in the open air, it is quickly diluted to harmless concentrations, but when it enters an enclosed space, such as a house or other building, it can accumulate to unacceptably high concentrations. This gives rise to a radiation dose, which may cause lung cancer. Radon can be linked to up-to 200 lung cancer deaths in Ireland every year. For people who smoke, or who have smoked, the risk from radon is considerably greater than for people who never smoked.

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. The cost of the kit from the RPII is €50.

ENDS

Note to Editor:

The identification and exact location of householder is not available

Radon is a Class-1 carcinogen. Long-term exposure to radon increases the risk of lung cancer. Based on current knowledge it is estimated that in Ireland, for the population as a whole, a lifetime exposure (i.e. 70 yrs) to radon in the home at the Reference Level of 200 Bq/m3 carries a risk of about 1 in 50 of contracting fatal lung cancer. This is approximately twice the risk of death in a road accident.

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.

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 a maximum of 15 cent).

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.

Since July 1998, every new house is required to incorporate some degree of radon preventive measures at the time of construction in accordance with the revised Building Regulations. The degree of protection required is dependent upon whether or not the site is located within a High Radon Area.