Carlow Local Authorities commended for tackling cancer-causing radon gas

Date released: Mar 21 2011

Over 1500 homes tested by the council, 100 were found to be high.

RPII urge private homeowners to take the radon test.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has today commended Carlow Local Authorities for testing all its social housing for levels of the cancer-causing gas radon. Over 1500 social housing homes, located throughout the county, were tested by the Local Authorities in a survey which found over 100 homes with high levels of the radioactive gas.

The results of the survey confirm that Carlow has a particular radon problem and demonstrate how important it is for private homeowners to also test their homes as many are unwittingly living with a risk to their health.

Two homes in Borris were found with extremely high radon levels; one was 20 and the other 10 times the acceptable level. Homes in Leighlinbridge, Muinebheag and Tinryland were also found with many times the acceptable level of radon. The Local Authorities have notified all its tenants of their results and has prioritised those homes with the highest radon levels for early remedial work in order to reduce the radon risk.

Commenting on the proactive approach taken by the Local Authorities, Stephanie Long, Senior Scientist with the RPII, said: “We commend Carlow Local Authorities for their comprehensive radon survey and their commitment to fix all homes with a radon problem. 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. These results also highlight how important it is for private homeowners in Carlow to take this matter seriously and take the radon test.” 

Mr Tim Butler, Senior Executive Officer with Carlow Local Authorities said: "We undertook this work to demonstrate our commitment to eliminating the risk to health from high radon levels in our social housing. We will now carry out remedial work to ensure that all tenants are protected against the harmful effects of this radioactive gas.”

Nationally, radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and is linked to up to 200 lung cancer deaths each year. The most recent RPII data shows that Carlow has the fourth highest incidence of radon in the country with one in six of the tested homes found to be above the acceptable level. However, only a small fraction of the approximate 17,000 households in the county have been tested to date.

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.


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 or ‘acceptable 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 in 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.