Mayo Radon Awareness Week 17 November 2014

Apply & pay for a Radon Test

in your home/workplace

using the online form

What is radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas which is naturally produced in the ground from the uranium present in small quantities in all rocks and soils. You cannot smell, see or taste radon and it can only be measured with special detectors.

Radon awareness week in County Mayo

The EPA will be running a radon awareness week in Co Mayo during the week of 17th to 23rd November.  During this week every home in the county will be posted an information pack. 

We will be hosting two public meetings in Ballina on Thursday 20th November in the Twin Trees Hotel at 2.30 pm and 7.30 pm.  Attendance at these meetings is free of charge so please join us if you would like to learn more about how to test for radon in your home and how you can reduce levels if necessary.

Listen to Stephanie Long from the EPA on Claremorris Community Radio speak about radon in the home, radon in Mayo and how to apply for a test.

Why is radon a problem?

Radon is a radioactive gas which produces tiny radioactive particles. When inhaled, these particles are deposited in the airways and on lung tissue, giving a radiation dose that can cause lung cancer. Radon is in the same group of carcinogens as asbestos and tobacco smoke.

Your risk of contracting lung cancer from exposure to radon depends on the level of radon you have been exposed to and duration of exposure.

Two groups of people are more at risk and should take action to reduce their exposure:

  • Those living in a home with high radon levels.
  • Those who smoke or who used to smoke.

Smokers run a much higher risk of developing radon-related lung cancer than those who never smoked because when the two carcinogens radon and tobacco smoke are combined, the risk is magnified.

There is no scientific evidence linking radon with any other types of respiratory illnesses or other cancers.

The Government has set a level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3) as the national Reference Level or 'acceptable level' for radon in homes above which the risk is unacceptable.

The becquerel is the unit in which radioactivity is measured.

What is the extent of the radon problem in county Mayo?

In the map of Mayo below, High Radon Areas are depicted as the brown and dark brown coloured grid squares.

A 'High Radon Area' is one in which more than 10% of homes are predicted to have radon levels in excess of the Reference Level (or acceptable level) of 200 Bq/m3.

Many parts of Mayo are designated by the EPA as High Radon Areas. You can search for your home address or nearest town on our interactive radon map.

Even if you do not live in a High Radon Area, you still may have high levels in your home.  The only way to know is to have your home tested.

We have also compiled results by county from all the measurements we have undertaken that show Mayo has amongst the highest incidence of radon in homes in the country. One in six of the homes we have tested so far in Mayo have tested above Reference Level (or acceptable level) of 200 Bq/m3.

Radon Map of County Mayo

How does radon get into my home?

Radon can enter a building from the ground through small cracks in floors and through gaps around pipes or cables.

It is generally warmer inside your house than it is outside.  This temperature difference results in a lower indoor air pressure relative to the outside which causes radon to be sucked from the ground into a building.

 

Building regulations - provisions required for radon gas

Since 1998, Irish Building Regulations have required that reasonable measures be taken during the construction of new buildings to avoid danger to health due to radon. Specific technical guidance published by the Department of the Environment, Community & Local Government (DECLG) requires that all homes built since July 1st 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. The guidance also outlines the requirements for radon barriers.

How does a radon measurement work?

A radon measurement is usually carried out by placing two small detectors, about the size of a biscuit, in your home for three months.image of radon detector

One detector is placed in a bedroom the other in a living room - the places most occupied by the homeowner and family.

After three months, when the detectors are returned to the laboratory, they are analysed to see how much radon they have been exposed to.

Once the results are known, a report is issued to the person who requested the measurement indicating the average level of radon in their home and advice on what to do next if it is a high result.

Watch our short video on how to test your home for radon gas:

Where can I get a radon measurement?

A number of service providers provide a simple and inexpensive radon measurement service for your home and for the workplace.  Further information can be found here.

What can I do to protect myself?

Get the levels of radon in your home measured.

Most homes tested will be found to be safe, giving homeowners peace of mind. Where unacceptable radon levels are found, the majority will have moderately high levels which can often be fixed by improving the ventilation in a house. This work can be done at a low cost or indeed by a DIY enthusiast.

A popular method to reduce any level of radon gas requires the creation of a sump – a small void under the house which is then piped to the outside. A fan is then installed to extract radon gas from under the house, it is then vented outside.  The work can be done within a day and from outside the house so there should be no internal disruption. Surveys carried out by the EPA report the typical costs for this work are about €925 (€400 - €1500).  The on-going running costs were found to vary from about €30 to about €125 per year, depending on the strength of fan used (between 30 and 70 watts).

There are a number of companies in Ireland who can do this work and further details can be found here.  The costs should be lower for houses built since July 1st 1998 as they should already have a standby sump in place.

Watch our short video on how to fix a home or other buiding with high radon levels:

A booklet entitled Understanding radon remediation - A householder's guide will help you learn more about the solutions available and how to deal with the problem.  Technical guidance on radon remediation techniques is also published by the DECLG.

Hear about this homeowner's experience of testing her home for radon and how she went about reducing the radon levels: