Extremely dangerous levels of radon gas found in Waterford home

Date released: May 12 2008

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has announced today that it has found a house in County Waterford with extremely high concentrations of radon gas. The house had radon levels which were nearly 50 times above the acceptable level.

Waterford is situated in a High Radon Area and the RPII believes that it is very likely that there are more houses in the area with similarly high radon levels. In order to address this risk the RPII has organised public meetings so that members of the public can get more information on radon gas and the dangers that it poses.

This measurement, at nearly 10,000 becquerels of radon per cubic metre (Bq/m3), is the highest ever found in the Southeast and the third highest found in a home in Ireland. At these radon levels the radiation dose to the householder would be equivalent to receiving 33 chest X-rays per day or over 12,000 chest X-rays a year.

Commenting on this measurement, Mr David Fenton, Manager of Radon Advice at the RPII said: “Radon is tasteless, odourless and invisible and, because of this, members of the public cannot tell if they have radon in their home without measuring for it. So far, the RPII has measured less than 1000 houses in Waterford and we believe that there are many more homes in the area that have high radon levels.“

“Radon is a cancer causing gas and is the second biggest cause of lung cancer in the country”, continued Mr Fenton. “Measuring for radon and in the event of a high reading, remediating a home, are both relatively inexpensive. In order to educate the public about the dangers of radon, the RPII will speak to the Waterford Community forum in Dungarvan on Wednesday 14th May and, in collaboration with Waterford County Council and the HSE, will hold public meetings in the Granville Hotel, Waterford on Thursday 15th May at 3:30 pm and 8 pm.”

According to research, it is believed that over 20% of homes in Waterford may have high radon levels. The RPII has identified the area south of the River Suir and bounded by and including Waterford city to the north-east, Tramore to the south-east, Bunmahon to the south-west and Kilmacthomas to the west as being at particularly high risk from radon. According to Mr. Fenton, “The RPII advises that all homes, particularly those located in High Radon Areas, should be measured 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. The RPII and number of private companies provide a radon measurement service. The cost of a measurement varies between €40 and €80.

A list of approved measurement services is available on the website together with detailed information on radon and its risks. Information on how to get a home or workplace tested for radon 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 maximum 15 cents).

ENDS

Note to Editors:

In the interest of confidentiality, the identification and exact location of householder will not be made available.

Radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer in Ireland – causing up to 200 deaths per year. Over 100,000 homes and workplaces throughout Ireland are thought to have radon levels above the acceptable limit.

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. Radon is linked to approximately 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.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that originates from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. It has no smell, colour or taste and can only be detected using special detectors. Outdoors radon quickly dilutes 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.

The national Reference Level for radon in homes is 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). The Becquerel is the unit of radioactivity.