Donegal home found with 17 times the acceptable level of cancer-causing radon gas

Date released: Feb 10 2011

Occupants received radiation dose equivalent to 4250 chest X-rays per year

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has identified a house in Lifford, Co. Donegal with concentrations of radon gas 17 times above the acceptable level. At these radon levels, the radiation dose to the householder would be equivalent to receiving about 12 chest X-rays per day, or 4250 per year. 

The RPII believes this result to be rare for the county but is concerned that there may be other homes in the county with high levels of radon and urges all householders to take the radon test. 

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 home which is located near Lifford had an average radon level of 3400 becquerels of radon per cubic metre (Bq/m3) which is 17 times the acceptable level of 200 Bq/m3 and the highest level ever found in any house in the county. 

Mr David Fenton, Senior Scientist with the RPII said: “Radon has no smell, taste or colour and, because of this, people cannot tell if they are living with high radon levels in their home unless they take the radon test. There could be more homes in the county, especially around the Lifford area, with high radon levels. People living in these homes are at increased risk of developing lung cancer.” 

To date, the RPII have measured 1270 homes throughout Donegal with 60 (5 per cent) recording levels in excess of the acceptable level. The highest level found previously was 3 times the acceptable level (600 Bq/m3). This reflects the fact that most of Donegal is predicted to be a low radon area but there are areas in Donegal where up to 1 in 10 homes are predicted to have high levels. An interactive map is available on the website so that anyone can search for their address, or nearest town, to see whether their home or workplace is in a High Radon Area. However, high radon levels in homes can be found anywhere and testing is the only way to be sure. 

Testing for radon and, in the event of a high reading, reducing the levels present are both straightforward. To test for radon, detectors are placed in a bedroom and in a living room for three months. The detectors are small and are sent and returned by post for analysis. 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, a list of test suppliers and how to reduce high levels, if present, is available on the website or on Freefone 1800 300 600.