Wexford Radon Week

Date released: Nov 05 2012

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

Public meetings to be held in Wexford Town and Enniscorthy.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is to host a week-long awareness drive in Wexford to highlight the dangers of exposure to radon gas. The information campaign will begin on Saturday 10th November and will urge people to test their homes for the presence of the cancer-causing gas radon.

One in six homes measured in Wexford have been found to have high levels of the radioactive gas, which is linked to over 200 deaths each year in Ireland. Much of Wexford is deemed a High Radon Area in which more than 10 per cent of homes are predicted to have high levels of radon. In particular, homes with high levels have consistently been found in the towns of Enniscorthy, Gorey, New Ross and Bunclody.

As part of the awareness drive, the RPII will host two public meetings on Wednesday 14th November at 2pm in the Riverbank House Hotel, The Bridge, Wexford and at 7pm in The Presentation Centre on Convent Road in Enniscorthy. The events are free and everyone is welcome to attend to find out more information on radon.

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

Testing your home for radon gas is easy. The test involves two radon detectors being placed in your home, one 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. A number of service providers provide a radon measurement service. The cost of a measurement is around €50 depending on which service provider is chosen and includes postage.

If radon reduction is required there are two straightforward methods which are most commonly used. If a moderate radon level is found, improving indoor ventilation may be sufficient and the cost of this is relatively low. If higher levels are found, 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 typical cost of this work is €1,100 with the fan costing approximately €90 per year to run.

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. On the website you can also find out what you need to know about radon – what it is, why it is a problem and how you can have a measurement made. Information can also be obtained by phoning the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland on Freefone 1800 300 600.

ENDS

Note to Editors:

Scientists are available for interview – see contact details above.

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, 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.