1 in 6 Waterford homes tested for radon found to be above acceptable level

Date released: Mar 25 2011

RPII urges homeowners to take the radon test.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is again urging the people of Waterford to test their homes for the radioactive gas radon, a deadly gas which is linked to up to 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland, after the most recent testing found another 84 homes above the acceptable level. 

Radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and Waterford has one of the highest incidences in the country of homes with high radon levels. 

Since October 2010, following a radon awareness campaign, more than 500 homes were tested by the RPII. Of these, 84 were found to be above the acceptable level. The highest home had approximately 10 times the acceptable level. The radiation dose to the occupants of this home is equivalent to receiving approximately 7 chest X-rays per day. Locations where high radon levels are consistently found include: Butlerstown, Carrick-on-Suir, Dungarvan, Dunhill, Fenor, Kilmacow, Kilmacthomas, Kilmeaden, Tramore and much of Waterford City. 

The RPII has tested nearly 1770 homes in Co. Waterford to-date and found 1 in 5 to have high levels of radon gas. However, the number of homes tested is only a small fraction of the 38,000 homes in the county and therefore many families are living with an unknown risk to their health. 

Ms Stephanie Long, Senior Scientist at the RPII said: “The homeowners that have measured have done the right thing in addressing the radon problem. However, many families in Waterford remain completely unaware that they may be exposed to high levels of this radioactive gas which is linked to lung cancer. People need to take the radon test.” 

Testing for radon and, in the event of a high reading, reducing the levels present are both straightforward. 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. 

A radon test is available from the RPII and other test suppliers and costs about €50. 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. 


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. 

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.