Over 1300 homes test for radon in Galway in the past two months

Date released: Dec 02 2011

Yet many thousands of families may unknowingly be living with a threat to their health.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is again urging the people of Galway to test their homes for radon, a radioactive gas which is linked to up to 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland.

Over 1300 homeowners have undertaken the radon test since the beginning of October this year following an intensive awareness campaign of the dangers of exposure to the radioactive gas. These are in addition to the 5630 homes previously tested by the RPII in the county. However, the total number tested to date is only a small fraction of the 78,000 occupied homes in Galway.

Galway has one of the highest incidences of radon in homes in the country where more than one in five homes, tested by the RPII, have been found to have radon levels in excess of the acceptable level.

Radon is prevalent in homes across the County and the RPII predicts that in some areas every second home could have high levels. The area west of Tuam as far as Schrule and bounded by and including Kilconly to the north and Belcare to the south, has the highest radon risk in Ireland, with more than 50 per cent of homes predicted to be above the acceptable level. 

The radon risk south of Belclare remains very high. In the areas around Claregalway, Castlegar, Oranmore and large parts of Galway city, such as Renmore, Lough Atalia, Terryland and city centre areas, over 40 per cent of homes could have high radon levels. 

Stephanie Long, Senior Scientist with the RPII, said: “The families that have tested have taken the necessary first step in addressing this problem. Many thousands of families in Galway are completely unaware that they may be exposed to this colourless, odourless and tasteless radioactive gas.”

“We know that exposure to high levels of radon in your home can lead to lung cancer. The only way to know if you have a high radon level 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,” she added.

Testing 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. 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. 

“Radon is only a problem if people ignore it in the hope it will somehow go away. It will not go away so the only way to be safe is to measure the levels in your home and reduce them if they are high” concluded Ms Long.

ENDS

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 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.