Every homeowner needs to take the radon test

Date released: Mar 16 2012

Kerry Homeowners urged to ‘Take the radon test’.

Two public meetings were held in Kerry this week on the dangers of exposure to radon gas. The meetings were part of a wider campaign by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII), to urge people in Kerry to test their homes for the presence of the cancer-causing gas, radon.

Nationally, radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and is directly linked to about 200 lung cancer deaths each year.

The meetings heard from David Fenton, Senior Scientist with the RPII, who said: “Radon is only a problem if you ignore it. It’s straightforward to protect yourself and your family from this hazard in your home. The first step is to order a test kit which is sent by post to the homeowner. This has two detectors which are about the size of an air freshener; one of these is placed in the living room and one in the bedroom for three months. These are then posted to the measurement company for analysis. It really is as simple as that.”

Mr Fenton answered a variety of questions from concerned homeowners during the meetings, but summed up by saying, “I know you all have questions which are specifically related to your own home. Every homeowner wonders if they are more or less likely to have high radon levels. The answer to this and every homeowner is the same, the only way you can be sure is if you test.”

“Kerry has one of the highest incidences of homes with high radon levels in Ireland. One in seven homes in Kerry tested for radon is above the acceptable level and 11 of the 20 highest radon levels identified in Ireland were in Kerry. However, take up of people testing has been slow with less than 8% of Kerry homes tested by the RPII and as a result people are continuing to be exposed to a health hazard”.

Homeowners in Kerry need to take this matter seriously and measure radon levels in their homes to ensure that they and their families are not at risk,” Mr Fenton concluded.

The cost to test a home is about €50. Following testing, if your radon level is moderately high then improving indoor ventilation, the cost of which is low, may reduce the level by up to half. For higher radon levels, a fan assisted sump can be installed which can reduce radon levels by over 90%. The sump can be installed in a day with little disruption to your home. The average cost of this work is €1100 (€800 to €2000) with running costs of approximately €90 per year.

On the website anyone can search for their home address or nearest town on an interactive radon map to see whether their home or workplace is in a High Radon Area. People can also access information on what radon is, why it is a problem, how to take a test and if they find high readings, how to fix the problem. Information can also be obtained on freefone 1800 300 600.


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.