High radon levels measured in homes in every county in Ireland

Date released: Jan 25 2010

The RPII has published its updated data on radon measurements in Ireland.

Radon, a colourless, odourless and tasteless radioactive gas is linked to up to 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland. Counties in the west, southeast and south of the country are returning the highest rates of homes with high radon levels. In Sligo, 24 per cent of the homes tested by the RPII are above the acceptable level. In Waterford, Galway, Carlow, Wicklow, Mayo, Wexford the rate is greater than 15 per cent. Seven other counties returned results where more than 10 per cent are high. There is no county in Ireland without a home with a high radon level.
Ten of the fifteen highest individual measurements have been found in Kerry where the overall rate of homes tested above the acceptable level is 14 per cent. These were recorded in the area around Tralee and Castelisland. Dr. Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII, said: “Because radon is odourless, colourless and tasteless, many people are unknowingly living with dangerous levels of radiation in their homes. Homeowners, especially those in High Radon Areas, need to take this matter seriously and measure radon levels in their homes to ensure that they and their families are not at risk.”
Since establishing its radon measurement programme in the early 1990s, the RPII has measured almost 38,000 homes in Ireland. However, by the end of 2009, just over 5% (4922) of the estimated 91,000 homes above the national Reference Level have been identified.
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 a High Radon Area. 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. 
Note to Editors:
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.
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 years) 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. For people who smoke, or who have smoked, the risk from radon is up to 25 times greater than for people who never smoked.
Specific guidance on radon prevention measures for new homes is contained the “Building Regulations 1997, Technical Guidance Document C – site preparation and resistance to moisture” which is published by The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The guidance specifies that all new homes, built since 1st July 1998, must be fitted with a standby radon sump which can be activated at a later stage to reduce any high radon concentrations subsequently found. For homes built in High Radon Areas, the installation of a radon barrier as well as a standby radon sump is required.

Summary results of the radon measurements carried out by the RPII in each county up to 31st December 2009.