Sligo home 13 times acceptable level

Date released: Apr 29 2010

Sligo home found with 13 times the acceptable level of cancer-causing radon gas

Occupants received radiation dose equivalent to 3,000 chest X-rays per year
The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has identified a house in county Sligo with extremely high concentrations of radon gas. The home, located in the Ballymote area, had radon levels which were over 13 times the acceptable level.
Nationally, radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and is linked to about 200 lung cancer deaths each year. The RPII believes it is very likely that there are more homes across the country with similarly high radon levels and urges people to test for the gas and reduce their risk of lung cancer.
Over the past few weeks the RPII has been driving the ‘test your home’ message in areas at risk from the radioactive gas and has run two intensive campaigns in Sligo and Carlow urging homeowners to protect themselves.
Commenting on the finding, Mr David Fenton, Senior Scientist at the RPII, said: “In recent weeks we have highlighted the radon problem in Sligo and Carlow which are among the worst affected counties in the country. We regularly find homes with very high radon concentrations and we know there are more. We would urge people not to ignore this warning and to test for radon in their homes. It’s so simple to test your home. All people have to do is log on to the website or call 1800 300 600 to order a test.”
The RPII informed the householder, who had undertaken a radon measurement, that the average level in the house was greater than 2,600 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3), or 13 times the acceptable level of 200 Bq/m3. The radiation dose received by occupants of the house living with this radon concentration is equivalent to receiving 9 chest X-rays per day, or over 3,000 per year. Following advice, the householder took immediate action to fix the problem by having a radon sump installed beneath the house which prevents high radon levels ever accumulating in the house again. The householder is currently waiting on a post-remediation measurement to ensure the levels have been reduced.
Mr Fenton added: “The identification of this house is a further reminder that many people throughout the country are living with dangerous levels of radiation in their homes. It is unnecessary for people to put themselves and their families at risk from radon. Homeowners need to take this matter seriously and measure radon levels in their homes to ensure that they and their families are not at risk from the hazardous gas”.
On the RPII’s website anyone can 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 charge €56 for a radon measurement. A list of other companies who carry out measurements can be accessed on the website or by calling 1800 300 600.
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.