Over three quarters of population aware of radon gas

Date released: Nov 24 2010

RPII urge people to test their homes for the cancer causing gas

Awareness of radon gas is high throughout the country, yet the likelihood of those people getting their homes tested remains low, according to new research released by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) at its National Radon Forum in Cork today. Radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and is linked to up to 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland.

The research, carried out by Millward Brown Lansdowne on behalf of the RPII, found that 77 per cent of people were aware of radon gas with 56 per cent perceiving radon in the home to be a risk to health. However, the research also found that, among those aware of radon, 61 per cent were unlikely to have their homes tested.

Mr David Fenton, Senior Scientist with the RPII, said: “This research is very encouraging in terms of awareness, but the large percentage of people who said they were unlikely to take the radon test is of concern. Understandably, people think their homes are safe, yet we know that there are at least 91,000 homes across the country with high levels of radon. In real terms this means that if people don’t take the test they could unwittingly continue to be exposed to dangerous levels of radiation in their homes.” 

“The message is simple; exposure to high levels of radon in your home can lead to lung cancer. The only way to find out the level of radon in your home is to take the radon test. If high levels are found it is straightforward to reduce them. I would urge people to protect themselves by taking the radon test.”

The National Radon Forum, which was chaired by the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, also heard from experts from Cork County Council, South Tipperary County Council, the State Claims Agency, Millward Brown Lansdowne and the RPII. 

The Forum also heard how Cork County Council has tested over 4500 homes, including all of its social housing stock in high radon areas, for the deadly gas. The survey identified over 200 homes with high levels of the gas and works have been undertaken to reduce the levels present. The survey has confirmed that parts of Cork, especially north Cork, have a particular problem with radon.

Commenting on the proactive approach taken by the Council Mr David Fenton said: “Cork County Council is the first local authority to undertake such a comprehensive radon testing and remediation programme. In doing so it has ensured that the risk to its tenants from high radon levels has been eliminated. The Council has effectively drawn the roadmap for measuring social housing stocks that other Local Authorities can follow.”

Today’s National Radon Forum is the eighth in a series of fora that provide the opportunity for Government agencies, health professionals, local authorities, radon measurement companies and the radon remediation industry to discuss issues on radon. 

Detailed information on radon and its risks, including information on how to get your home or workplace tested for radon is available on the website or on freefone 1800 300 600. 

ENDS

A regional press release for Cork is also available.

Notes 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. 

A High Radon Area is an area where more than 10% of homes are predicted to have levels of radon above the acceptable level. The national Reference Level for radon, or acceptable level as it is known, is 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). The RPII have published a map on the website  that shows the location of these High Radon areas throughout the country. The map is interactive in that entering an address or local town name shows whether a house is located in a High Radon Area. 

Recent studies on indoor radon and lung cancer in Europe, North America and Asia provide epidemiological evidence that radon causes a substantial number of lung cancers in the general population – radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking. In Ireland, radon is linked to up to 200 lung cancers per year, most of which are preventable. Most of the radon-induced lung cancer cases will occur among smokers, or former smokers, due to the strong combined effect of smoking and radon.

The market research was undertaken by Millward Brown Lansdowne on behalf of the RPII. 1,000 interviews were conducted amongst a nationally representative sample of adults aged 15+. All interviews were conducted between 2nd June and 8th June 2010. Some of the questions asked and the responses given are outlined below.

Q. I am going to read a list of items and would like you to rate one on a scale of 1 to 5 where 5 poses a very high risk to your health and 1 poses no risk at all. How do you rate…

Base: All adults aged 15+

 

 

No risk at all

(1)

%

(2)

%

(3)

%

(4)

%

 

Very high risk

(5)

%

Don't know

%

Radon gas in the

home

10 10 16 22 34 7

High risk (net) = 56% 

Q. Have you heard of radon gas, before today?

Base: All adults aged 15+

Aware = 77% 

Unaware = 23%

Q. How likely are you to have your home tested for radon gas? Are you…

Base: All who heard of radon gas (excludes people who had had their homes tested)   

Very likely

%

Quite likely

%

Not very likely

%

Not at all likely

%

Don't know

%

13 23 29 32 3

Unlikely to undertake test (net) = 61%