Two Kerry homes found to have cancer-causing radon gas levels among the highest in Europe

Date released: Oct 13 2009

RPII urges people to protect themselves by measuring and remediating, visit www.rpii.ie for more information

Families in Ireland continue to be exposed to cancer-causing radon gas as two homes in Co Kerry are identified as having levels of radon gas among the highest found in Europe. These new findings are the third and fourth highest measurements found in the country to date. 

Measurements in one home were up to 70 times the acceptable level, representing a radiation dose to the occupants equivalent to nearly 47 chest X-rays per day, according to the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII). 

Nationally, radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and is directly linked to about 200 lung cancer deaths each year. The RPII believes it is very likely that there are more homes throughout the country with very high radon levels and urges people to test for the gas and reduce their risk of lung cancer. 

Commenting on the findings, Mr. David Fenton, Manager of Radon Advice at the RPII said: “The radon levels in these homes are among the highest we have ever measured and are among the highest levels found in homes in Europe. Many people in Ireland are living with very dangerous levels of radiation. We implore householders to take this seriously and measure the radon level in their home as a step towards reducing the risk of lung cancer to their family. It’s a relatively simple process and people can find out more by visiting the website”. 

The homes, which are both located in Tralee, had measurements of 13,797 becquerels of radon per cubic metre (Bq/m3) and 8490 Bq/m3 respectively. Remedial work to both homes has now been undertaken and they are awaiting the results of retests to ensure the levels have reduced below the acceptable level. The towns of Tralee and Castleisland now have fifteen of the top twenty highest measurements found by the RPII. However, the radon problem is not restricted to Kerry as they follow recent high measurements in Sligo, Mayo, Clare and Tipperary. To date, the RPII has measured 36,700 homes in the country. Of these, 4700 had high levels but this is just 5% of the 91,000 homes predicted to have high radon levels. 

The RPII has redeveloped its website so that anyone can now search for their address on an interactive radon map to see whether their home or workplace is in an area predicted to have high radon levels. They can find out what they need to know about radon – what it is, why it is a problem and how they can have a measurement made. Information can also be obtained on freefone 1800 300 600. 

Measuring for radon and, in the event of a high reading, reducing the levels present are both relatively inexpensive. 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 a number of private companies provide a radon measurement service. The cost of a measurement is between €40 and €80.