RPII to hold public meeting on cancer causing radon gas

Date released: Oct 15 2007

RPII urge Employers and Homeowners in Mallow and north Cork to measure radon – it’s simple and cost-effective

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has launched a comprehensive radon gas awareness campaign in the Mallow area aimed at highlighting the risks of exposure to the cancer causing gas that is linked to nearly 200 lung cancer deaths each year. The campaign follows the detection of radon gas, at a level that was over 60 times the acceptable limit, in an office in Mallow recently.
The RPII has expressed its concern following the recent finding and has commenced an awareness campaign to ensure that the residents of Mallow are aware of the risks from prolonged exposure to the gas and how to measure for it. The RPII has written to all householders and businesses in the area advising them of the risk from radon and recommending that they carry out the simple and straightforward test for the gas. In addition, the RPII, in collaboration with Mallow Town Council, will address a public meeting in the Hibernian Hotel at 3:30 pm and again at 8 pm on Friday 19th October. The meeting will inform people on the risks of prolonged exposure to the naturally occurring radioactive gas as well as how to test for radon. Testing is simple, inexpensive and is carried out by placing detectors, the size of an air freshener, in your home or workplace for three months and returning them by post for analysis.
“North Cork is one of the areas most at risk from radon and the recent finding in Mallow is among the highest found anywhere in Europe. In the surrounding area, especially between Mallow and Mitchelstown, we predict that nearly one in five homes has high radon levels. We are hoping to meet with as many people as possible to let them know about radon, how easy it is to test for it and more importantly how they can reduce the risks to themselves both at home and at work,” said Mr David Fenton, Manager of the RPII’s Radon Advice Section.
“Employers and workers, 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. Employers with businesses in other areas should also adopt a proactive approach and measure for radon” added Mr Fenton.
It is estimated that 91,000 homes throughout Ireland have radon concentrations above the national reference level. Nationally, the RPII has tested more than 32,000 homes but to date less than 4000 homes with high radon levels have been identified. This is just over 4% of the number of homes predicted to have high levels of radon. “People are not carrying out radon tests and we hope to reassure them that testing for radon is simple and, where necessary, remedial work is relatively straightforward and cost effective,” added Mr Fenton.
Radon 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.
Detailed information on radon and its risks, including information on how to get your home or workplace tested is available on the 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).
Note to Editors:
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 considerably greater than for people who never smoked.
In certain circumstances, radon can build up to unacceptable high concentrations becoming a health risk to the occupants of a building. 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.
High Radon Areas are shown on maps published on the 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 Southeast 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.