Date released: June 24, 2021
24th June 2021: A survey exploring Irish attitudes towards radiation found that 28 per cent of people are concerned about radiation. In Ireland, radon accounts for more than half of our radiation exposure. However, while awareness of radon gas is high, two out of three people said that they are unlikely to test their home, believing their homes to be unaffected by radon.
Commenting on the survey, Stephanie Long, EPA Senior Scientist said,
“Many people don’t know that radon is the largest contributor to radiation dose in Ireland. If there is a high radon level in your home, it is exposing you and your family to unnecessary radiation. While radon levels in certain parts of the country are higher than, others the gas can be found in homes of all types and ages throughout the country. Yet, despite the risks there continues to be a reluctance amongst householders to protect their health by testing their homes for radon.”
Reducing radon levels in homes and other buildings is simple and inexpensive and immediately reduces the risk of developing lung cancer. For moderate levels of radon, improving indoor ventilation may reduce the level by up to half. 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 one day by a contractor with little disruption to the home.
Clinical psychologist Dr Clare Kambamettu is a homeowner who found high levels of radon in her home, which she acted on and remediated. Clare had a radon sump installed in her Galway home which addressed the high radon levels. Clare commented:
“We were worried when our test showed high levels of radon in our home. We soon found out that the solution was surprisingly easy. Most of the work was done quickly from the outside of our home with very little disruption. And the best part was that once the work was done, the risk was gone too, as our radon levels were reduced so much.”
For more information on radon and to find a list of registered radon testing and remediation services, visit www.radon.ie or freefone 1 800 300 600.
Notes to Editor
These findings are from an Amarách Opinion Poll of a nationally representative sample of 1,149 adults aged over 18, conducted online by between the 7th and 9th of October 2020. The findings from this survey can be found here.
How much radiation is someone living in Ireland exposed to every year?
We are constantly exposed to a variety of natural and artificial sources of radiation. Natural sources account for 86% of all our radiation exposure. In Ireland, most of the radiation we are exposed to comes from radon gas. Artificial sources make up the other 14% and come mainly from the beneficial use of radiation in medicine.
Radiation doses from other man-made or artificial sources such as the nuclear power plants, the Chernobyl accident, occupational exposure account for less than 1 per cent of our total exposure. Details of the amount of radiation we are exposed to can be found on the EPA website.
What is Radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas formed in the ground from the radioactive decay of uranium which is present in all rocks and soils. It has no smell, colour or taste and can only be detected using radon detectors. Outdoors, radon quickly dilutes to harmless levels, but when it enters an enclosed space - such as a house or other building - it can accumulate to unacceptably high levels. Radon is a carcinogen and is linked to some 300 lung cancer cases each year in Ireland, making it a serious public health hazard.
About a third of Ireland is classified as a high radon area by the EPA. However, the EPA recommends that homeowners in all areas test their homes for radon. You can check if you are living in a high radon area on the EPA’s interactive radon risk map Ireland has relatively high indoor radon levels, with an average indoor level of 77 bequerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3), compared to the worldwide average of 39 Bq/m3.
Where can I get a radon test
You can find a list of EPA registered radon measurement services and details about how to test and fix your home on www.radon.ie. The test costs about €50 and is all done by post using one of the services registered with the EPA.
Testing a home
Two small detectors are sent to your home. One is placed in the bedroom and one in the living room, the rooms most occupied by the family. After three months they are returned to the service provider for analysis. The results will be sent to you together with some advice on what to do next. The whole process is completed by post and there is no need for anyone to visit your home.
What can be done to reduce high radon levels in a home?
Radon problems in a home can be fixed easily, relatively inexpensively and usually without disruption to the household. A booklet entitled Understanding radon remediation - a householders guide will help you learn more about the solutions available and how best to deal with the problem.
How are new homes protected from radon?
The Building Regulations require that all new homes built since 1998 in High Radon Areas are installed with a radon membrane However, having a radon membrane is not a guarantee that a home will have low levels of radon. Therefore, even homes with radon membranes installed should be tested for radon. All new homes are also installed with a standby radon sump which can be activated if necessary.
The National Radon Control Strategy
To address radon as a public health hazard, the Government published its first National Radon Control Strategy (NRCS) in 2014. The aim of the strategy is to reduce the number of lung cancer cases in Ireland. In February 2019, new legislation was put in place which requires Ireland to have a national radon action plan. The second phase of the NRCS was launched in May 2019 and addresses this requirement. The NRCS is implemented by a Cross-Government group led by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications and details of the NRCS can be found on the EPA website.