Extremely dangerous levels of radon gas found in Kerry home

Date released: May 26 2008

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has announced today that it has found a house in north Kerry with extremely high concentrations of radon gas. The house had radon levels which were nearly 26 times above the acceptable level. The RPII believes it is very likely that there are more houses in the area with similarly high radon levels.

The home, which was located between Castleisland and Tralee, had a measurement of over 5000 becquerels of radon per cubic metre (Bq/m3). At these radon levels the radiation dose to the householder would be equivalent to receiving over 6000 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 nearly 3000 houses in Kerry and found that about 1 in 7 were above the acceptable level. We believe that there are many more homes in the area that have high radon levels. Kerry is a known high radon area and the highest ever measurement of radon in a home was found in this area a few of years ago.” 

In recent months, the RPII has reported exceptionally high radon levels in a workplace in Mallow and in homes in Ballyporeen and Waterford. “The more we measure, the more high levels we find. The RPII is extremely concerned about the risks from exposure to radon. Measuring for radon and in the event of a high reading, reducing the levels present are both relatively inexpensive. I urge people to measure both their homes and workplaces for radon immediately” continued Mr Fenton. 

To test for radon, one radon detector is placed in a bedroom and a second in a living room for a three-month period. The detectors are small 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 is between €40 and €80. 

Detailed information on radon and its risks is available on the website together with a list of approved measurement services. Information 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 house 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.