Nearly 600 homes identified as having high levels of cancer-causing radon gas

Date released: Sep 17 2010

6 homes had readings of more than 10 times the acceptable level.Nearly 600 homes from across the country have been found to have high levels of cancer-causing radon gas so far this year. This is the highest number identified in any period since the national radon measurement programme began. The figures were released today by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII).
Radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and is linked to 150 to 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland.
More homes have been measured this year than ever before, due to a concerted public awareness drive on the dangers of radon. A total of 4,296 homes were measured by the RPII for radon gas between 1st Jan and 30th August 2010. Of these, 597 were above the acceptable level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3).
 The Chief Executive of the RPII Dr Ann McGarry said: “The high levels are a cause for concern, but the increase in the numbers of homes being measured is very welcome. Radon causes lung cancer, and for those with homes which have high levels, measuring is the first step towards making your home safe.”
Six homes in Lisdoonvarna, Clonmel, Ballymote (2) and Tralee (2) had more than ten times the acceptable level with measurements between 2000 and 3500 Bq/m3. The radiation dose to the occupants of the home with the highest radon levels were equivalent to receiving 4375 chest X-rays per year or 12 chest X-rays per day. The RPII is working closely with these householders to ensure successful remediation of their homes to reduce the radon levels and the risk to their health.
Fifty-eight homes measured had radon levels of between 800 and 2000 Bq/m3, and were found in Galway (15), Sligo (14), Kerry (11), Cork (5), Mayo (4), Waterford (2), Carlow (2), with one each in Clare, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Wexford and Wicklow.
The remaining 533 results had readings of between 200 and 800 Bq/m3 and were found throughout the country.
Commenting on the findings, Dr Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII said: “We know that radon levels in Ireland are among the highest in Europe and there are an estimated 91,000 homes out there with high radon levels. The vast majority of householders have not had their home tested for radon gas. These figures show us that thousands of families throughout the country are unknowingly living with very high concentrations of radon gas and therefore they have no idea that they are at increased risk of developing lung cancer.”
“Homeowners need to take this matter seriously and measure radon levels in their home. It doesn’t matter if you live in a new or old house, in a high or low radon risk area, or even if your home already has a radon barrier. The only way to make sure that you and your family are not at risk is to test.”
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. The detectors are small and are sent and returned by post. There is no need for anyone to visit your home to make the test. The RPII charge €56 (inc. VAT) for a test, prices vary from other test suppliers. Detailed information on radon, its risks, how to get your home or workplace tested and how to reduce high levels is available on the website or on Freefone 1800 300 600.
The RPII has undertaken a number of national radon awareness measures this year. It has also had concerted public awareness campaigns in Sligo and Carlow, and plans to continue this activity in other counties in the coming months and years.
The new findings, on a county by county basis are available for download
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.
Radon is a Class-1 carcinogen. Long-term exposure to radon increases the risk of lung cancer. For people who smoke, or who have smoked, the risk from radon is up to 25 times greater than for people who never smoked.
The national Reference Level for radon in homes is 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). The becquerel is the unit of radioactivity. Becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3) define the concentration of radioactive gases, such as radon, in the air.
A high resolution graphic of the predicted percentage of homes, in each 10 km X 10 km grid square in Ireland, above the national Reference Level is available by contacting us.