Health risks of radon

The greatest health risk from radiation in Ireland is from radon. In fact, 56% of the total radiation we are exposed in Ireland is from radon. About 350 cases of lung cancer in Ireland every year can be linked to radon.

Radon produces tiny radioactive particles. When they are inhaled, these particles can be deposited in the airways and result in a radiation dose to your lungs.

Over a long period of time, this exposure to radon can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Check the radon risk map is see if your home is in a High Radon Area.

An illustration of chest and lungs. When radon is breathed into the lungs, energy from radioactive particles can damage DNA and increase the risk of lung cancer

Risk for smokers

Radon is a particular hazard for people who smoke. Radon is not irritating to the lungs in the usual sense. It does not cause or increase the risk of asthma, nor is it associated with other common respiratory illnesses.

The risk from radon is 25 times greater for smokers than for lifelong non-smokers exposed to the same levels of radon. This is in addition to the lung cancer risk due to smoking itself. Ex-smokers remain at increased risk from radon for a number of years after they have stopped smoking.

Risk from exposure

Your risk of developing lung cancer from exposure to radon depends on:

  • How much radon you have been exposed to
  • How long you have been exposed to this level of radon
  • Whether or not you are a smoker (smokers are at 25 times more risk from radon than non-smokers)

For example:

  • Least risk = Non-smoker with little radon exposure
  • Some risk = Non-smoker with some radon exposure
  • Increased risk = Smoker with little radon exposure
  • Greatest risk = Smoker with radon exposure

If you are worried about radon in your home, you can contact a radon testing service.