European Radon Day: The EPA encourages everyone to test their homes for radon

Date released: Nov 07 2018

 

European Radon Day:  The Environmental Protection Agency encourages everyone to test their homes for radon

Radon is invisible, colourless and odourless - and is linked to around 300 cases
of lung cancer in Ireland every year

  • Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking
  • The levels of Radon gas in Irish homes are twice the European average
  • It is estimated that about half a million people in Ireland are living in homes with high radon levels

07 November 2018: Today, Wednesday, 7 November 2018 is European Radon day and the EPA is calling on all householders to test their homes for radon.  Irish homes have almost twice the European average levels of radon. 

The World Health Organisation has categorised radon as a Group 1 carcinogen, in the same group as asbestos and tobacco smoke. So far only about five per cent of homes in Ireland have been tested for radon, and there are many householders living in homes with high radon levels who are completely unaware of the problem in their own home.

Stephanie Long, Senior Scientist, Environmental Protection Agency said:

“When you think of lung cancer, smoking probably comes to mind but exposure to radon, a radioactive gas, also increases the risk of developing lung cancer. Radon is invisible, colourless and odourless - and is linked to around 300 cases of lung cancer in Ireland every year. Radon is present everywhere and for most people, the greatest exposure to this gas occurs at home.  The EPA estimates that about 500,000 people are living in homes with radon concentrations above the acceptable level of 200 Becquerels per cubic metre.  However, there are simple steps householders can take to reduce their exposure and the risk to their health.  

“Our message today is simple – order a radon test, find out if your home is affected and, if so, remember that it is easy to fix the problem. Give yourself and your family the peace of mind that your home is safe.”

Radon is easy to test for and easy to fix so learning more about what it is, and how people can protect themselves and their families is important. Stephanie Long explained:

“Radon is only a problem if it is ignored.   Radon is the second cause of lung cancer in Ireland after smoking and you and your family may be exposed to high levels. The only way to find out is to test your home and reduce levels if necessary – this is simpler than you would think.  Reducing your radon concentration will immediately reduce your risk of developing lung cancer. We encourage everyone to get their homes tested and to visit www.radon.ie for more information on radon in Ireland.”

Measuring for radon is an inexpensive and straightforward process. Radon test kits can be ordered through an EPA registered measurement service which are listed on radon.ie.  Stephanie Long concluded,

“All homes will have very different levels of radon.  Just because your neighbour’s home has been deemed safe from radon does not mean you are safe. This is why the EPA are encouraging all households to take the radon test. If there is a high radon level in your house, it is unnecessarily exposing you and your family to radiation every day."

 
Visit www.radon.ie for details on how to test your home and keep yourself and your family safe.
To find out more or to find a list of registered radon measurement services visit www.radon.ie.


Further information: Annette Cahalane/ Emily Williamson, EPA Media Relations Office 053-9170770 (24 hours) or media@epa.ie

Notes to Editor

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 concentrations but when it enters an enclosed space, such as a house or other building, it can accumulate to unacceptably high concentrations. Radon is a lung 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. Ireland has relatively high indoor radon concentrations, with an average indoor concentration of 77 Becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3), compared to the European average of 39 Bq/m3.

Number of lung cancer cases
The number of cases of lung cancer associated with radon each year has increased from 250 to 300.  The figure of 250 is based on the National Radon Survey that was carried out in 2002.  The revised figure of 300 is based on more recent surveys.  The difference between the two figures can be attributed to two main factors: a different method was used in each of the surveys and there has been a population increase of almost 1 million during the time between the two surveys.

Testing a home
Two small detectors are posted to your home, one is placed in the bedroom and one in the living room, the rooms most occupied by the family, and after three months they are posted back to the measurement service to be analysed and the results are then given to the householder together with some advice on what to do next. The whole process is done by post and there is no need for anyone to visit your home. The cost of a radon test is between €40 and €60 depending on which radon measurement service you choose.

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. Radon testing is no longer available from the EPA and the cost of testing your home varies depending on which test supplier you choose and is between €40 and €60.

What can be done to reduce high radon concentrations 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 Householder’s Guide will help you learn more about the solutions available and how best to deal with the problem, is available on www.radon.ie. In addition, the EPA provides a list of registered radon remediation services which are also listed on www.radon.ie.

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 barrier.  The Construction Industry Federation offers training courses for site staff in the installation of radon barriers.  Having a radon barrier is not a guarantee that a home will have low levels of radon so even homes with radon barriers 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 the 4-year National Radon Control Strategy (NRCS) in 2014. The aim of the strategy is to reduce the number of radon related lung cancer cases in Ireland.  The NRCS has been implemented since 2014 by a Cross-Government group led by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment.  The NRCS is currently being reviewed and Phase 2 developed to ensure radon continues to be tackled.

The Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA is the national competent authority for matters to do with ionising radiation.  Over the last number of years, the EPA has conducted comprehensive public information campaigns on the risks from radon in Counties Sligo, Carlow, Waterford, South Tipperary, Galway, North Kerry, Wexford, Louth, Tipperary, Mayo and Clare and Wicklow.  Since 2017, the EPA has held a public information campaign to mark European Radon Day (7th November) each year. 

European Radon Day
European Radon Day marks the birthday of Marie Curie, who won two Nobel prizes for her work on radioactivity.