Galway radon week

Date released: Sep 30 2011

RPII to highlight danger of exposure to cancer causing radon gas during a week-long awareness drive in Galway.

More than one in five homes already tested have high levels of the radioactive gas radon.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is to host a week-long awareness drive in Galway to highlight the dangers of exposure to radon gas. The information campaign will begin on Saturday 8th October and will urge people to test their homes for the presence of the cancer-causing gas radon.

Galway has one of the highest incidences of radon in homes in the country where more than one in five homes have radon levels in excess of the acceptable level. Of the 5630 homes tested in the county by the RPII, 21 per cent (1190) are above the acceptable level including 2 per cent (135) which were measured at more than four times the acceptable level.

Exposure to radon gas is linked to some 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland. In fact, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.

As part of the awareness drive the RPII will host two public meetings on Wednesday 12th October at 2.00pm in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Lough Atalia, Galway and at 7.30pm in the Ard Rí House Hotel, Milltown Road, Tuam. The events are free and everyone is welcome to attend.

Ms Stephanie Long, Senior Scientist at the RPII, said: “Radon is a serious issue, especially in Galway. But it’s easy to test for it and if your home has high levels it’s relatively inexpensive to fix it. 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. Homeowners in Galway need to take this matter seriously and measure radon levels in their homes to ensure that they and their families are not at risk”.

An interactive map is available on the website so that anyone can search for their address to see whether their home or workplace is in a High Radon Area. They can find out what they need to know about radon – what it is, why it is a problem and how they can have a measurement made. Information can also be obtained on Freefone 1800 300 600.

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 for a three-month period. The detectors are small and can be sent and returned by post for analysis. The RPII and a number of private companies provide a radon measurement service. The RPII charge €56 (inc. VAT) for a test. Prices vary from other test suppliers.


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 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 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.