Kerry Radon week

Date released: Mar 02 2012

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

Public meetings to be held in Castleisland and Tralee.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is to host a week-long awareness drive in Kerry to highlight the dangers of exposure to radon gas.

The information campaign will begin on Saturday 10th March and will urge people to test their homes for the presence of the cancer-causing gas radon. The RPII has found that one in seven homes in Kerry tested for radon is above the acceptable level. Furthermore, a large number of houses have been found in the area with exceptionally high radon concentrations. Of the 20 highest radon levels found in homes throughout Ireland, 11 were found in Kerry. 

Previously, the RPII has found homes in north Kerry with levels of radon among the highest in Europe. In 2003, the highest ever reading in an Irish house was found in Castleisland and was 245 times the acceptable level.

As part of the awareness drive, the RPII will host two public meetings on Thursday 15th March at 2.00pm in the River Island Hotel in Castleisland and 7.30pm in the Meadowlands Hotel, in Tralee. The events are free and everyone is welcome to attend to find out more information on radon.

Mr David Fenton, Senior Scientist at the RPII, said: “Radon is a serious issue, particularly in Kerry. 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 Kerry need to take this matter very seriously and take the radon test to ensure that they and their families are not at risk”.

Testing for radon and, in the event of a high reading, reducing the levels present are both easy to do. 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 sent and returned by post for analysis. The RPII and a number of private companies provide a radon testing service. The cost of a test is around €50.

If a moderate radon level is found, improving indoor ventilation may reduce the level by up to half, the cost of which is low. For higher levels, a fan assisted sump can be installed which can reduce radon levels by over 90%. The sump can be installed in a day by a contractor with little disruption to the home. The average cost of this work is €1,100 with annual running costs of approximately €90.

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. 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 test made. Information can also be obtained by phoning Freefone 1800 300 600.

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. For most people it is the largest single part of their annual radiation exposure.

The national Reference Level, ‘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.