Raising awareness of radon in Kerry

Date released: Mar 09 2012

Every homeowner needs to take the radon test.

North Kerry homeowners will receive an information pack with their post this week outlining the dangers of the cancer causing radon gas as part of an awareness drive by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII), which is supported by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Health Service Executive and Kerry County Council.

The RPII’s campaign which has been developed to persuade the people of north Kerry to ‘Take the Radon Test’ will also see Kerry TDs, Senators and Councillors being briefed on the issue. Print, broadcast and billboard advertising will also push the ‘Take the Radon Test’ message and two public meetings in Tralee and Castleisland on Thursday 15th March will offer an opportunity for people to talk directly to experts from the RPII.

Radon, a radioactive, odourless, invisible and tasteless gas is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and is linked to up to 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland. In Kerry, more than one in seven homes tested so far have high levels of radon and over half of the top twenty highest radon levels ever found in Ireland have been found in north Kerry.

Mr David Fenton, Senior Scientist at the RPII, said: “We have targeted north Kerry because there is a serious radon problem here. Some of the highest radon levels found in homes in Europe have been found in this area. However, radon is only a problem if people ignore it in the hope it will not harm them. Radon can cause harm and until you find out what levels are in your home and reduce them if they are high you will be at increased risk of developing lung cancer.”

“It is easy to test for radon and, if needs be, straightforward to reduce high levels. We are asking homeowners to protect themselves and their families from this unnecessary risk by taking the radon test this week,” Mr Fenton concluded.

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.

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.