Carlow Radon Week

Date released: Apr 08 2010

RPII to highlight danger of exposure to cancer causing radon gas during an awareness drive in Carlow.

Almost one in 6 homes measured have high levels of radon The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is to host a week long awareness drive in Carlow to highlight the dangers of exposure to radon gas. The information campaign will begin on Saturday 17th April and will urge people to test their homes for the presence of cancer-causing radon gas. 

Carlow has the fourth highest incidence of radon in homes in the country, with almost one in six homes measured in the county so far recording a measurement above the acceptable level. Exposure to radon gas is linked to some 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland. 

As part of the awareness drive the RPII will host two public meetings on Wednesday 21st April at 3.30 pm and 7.30 pm in the Talbot Hotel, Portlaoise Road, Carlow. The event is free and everyone is welcome to attend. 

Mr. David Pollard, Director of Monitoring and Measurement at the RPII, said: “Radon is a serious issue, especially in Carlow. But it’s easy to test for it and if your home has high levels it’s relatively inexpensive to fix it. Because radon is invisible, odourless and tasteless, people cannot tell if they have high levels of the radioactive gas in their home without testing for it. Homeowners in Carlow 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. In county Carlow, only 700 of the 17,000 households have been measured to date. 

An interactive map is available on the website so that anyone can search for their address 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 freephone 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.  

Ends

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.