Kilkenny Radon Week

Date released: Mar 07 2014

RPII to highlight danger of exposure to cancer causing radon gas during a week-long awareness drive in KilkennyPublic meetings to be held in Kilkenny and GraiguenamanaghThe Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is to host a week-long awareness drive in Kilkenny to highlight the dangers of exposure to radon gas. The information campaign will begin on Sunday 23rd March and will urge people to test their homes for the presence of the cancer-causing gas, radon.

One in seven homes tested in Kilkenny have been found to have high levels of the radioactive gas which causes up to 250 lung cancer cases each year in Ireland.Many parts of Kilkenny are deemed High Radon Areas 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 Graiguenamanagh, Thomastown, Gowran, Mooncoin, Mullinavat and Inistioge.

As part of the awareness drive, the RPII will host two public meetings. These will be held on Thursday 27th March. The first will be in Kilkenny Borough Council Office, City Hall, High St, Kilkenny at 2:30 pm. The second will be in Waterside Guesthouse, Graiguenamanagh at 7.30 pm. 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 Kilkenny. We know that Kilkenny has a particular problem with radon and yet only a fraction of homeowners have tested. Our research shows that of the homes already tested one in seven has high radon levels. However, it is easy to test for radon and if your home has high levels it’s relatively inexpensive to fix it. Homeowners in Kilkenny 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 per cent. The sump can be installed in a day by a contractor with little disruption to the home. The average cost of this work is €850 with annual running costs of approximately €100.

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.

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, Community 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.