Louth Residents Urged to Take the Radon Test

Date released: Apr 12 2013

Every home in Louth to receive information on radon from RPII with public meetings in Drogheda, Dundalk and Carlingford.

Louth homeowners will receive an information pack with their post this week outlining the dangers of radon. Radon is a radioactive, odourless, invisible and tasteless gas that can build up to unacceptable levels in the home. It is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and is linked to more than 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland.

The awareness drive by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is supported by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Health Service Executive and Louth Local Authorities.

The RPII’s campaign which has been developed to encourage the people of Louth to ‘Take the Radon Test’ will also be carried in print and broadcast. Louth TDs, Senators and Councillors will be briefed on the issue and experts from the RPII will speak at three public meetings this week to highlight the dangers of radon gas.

The meetings will be held on:

  • Thursday 18th April - 1pm - Barbican, St. Peter’s Parish Centre, William St, Drogheda
  • Thursday 18th April - 6pm - An Táin Theatre, Crowe Street, Dundalk
  • Friday 19th April at 11 am - Carlingford Heritage Centre, Carlingford

One in eight homes tested in Louth have been found to have unacceptable levels of the radioactive gas, and many parts of Louth are deemed High Radon Areas in which more than 10 per cent of homes are predicted to have radon levels above the acceptable level.

Ms Stephanie Long, Senior Scientist at the RPII, said: “We have targeted Louth because there is a serious radon problem here. However, radon is only a problem if people ignore it in the hope it will somehow go away. Long-term exposure to radon can eventually lead to lung cancer, but until you find out what levels are in your home, and reduce them if they are high, you could be at increased risk of 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,” Ms Long 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 carried out. Information can also be obtained by phoning Freefone 1800 300 600.


Note to Editors:

Map of High Radon Areas in Louth


Map of high radon areas in Louth

A "High Radon Area", coloured brown or dark brown in the map, is one in which more than 10% of homes are predicted to have radon levels in excess of the ‘acceptable level’ (national Reference Level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre - Bq/m3). A particular home address, or local town, can be found by searching the interactive radon map on the RPII’s website: www.rpii.ie. It is important to note that homes with radon levels above the Reference Level can be found in low risk areas.

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.