434 homes were identified with high levels of cancer-causing radon gas in the past year and a half according to new figures released today by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII). Radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and is directly linked to more than 200 lung cancer deaths in Ireland each year.
Commenting on the latest findings, Dr Ann McGarry, Chief Executive of the RPII, said: “Ireland has a significant radon problem with some of the highest radon levels found in Europe. Our research indicates that there are over 91,000 homes with high levels of radon and just over 7,900 have been found to date. Exposure to high radon levels causes lung cancer and many families are unknowingly living with a high risk to their health. The fact is that every second day someone dies from radon-induced lung cancer. People need to take the radon test to make sure they are not being exposed to this cancer causing gas in their home.”
The highest radon level found was in a home in Tralee, Kerry which was 26 times the acceptable level. The occupants were receiving the equivalent radiation dose of approximately 18 chest X-rays per day or 6500 per year.
Ten other homes, five in Kerry, three in Galway and one each in Clare and Wexford were identified with radon levels in excess of 10 times the acceptable level. Occupants in these homes received an equivalent radiation dose of more than 2500 chest X-rays per year.
A further 39 homes had radon levels between 4 and 10 times the acceptable level and were located in Galway (15), Wexford (6), Kerry (4), Sligo (4), Cork (2), Wicklow (2), Clare (1), Limerick (1), Louth (1), Mayo (1), Tipperary (1) and Waterford (1).
The remaining 384 homes had radon levels up to 4 times the acceptable level and were found, as predicted, in High Radon Areas throughout the country.
Dr McGarry said: “It is encouraging that over 3,000 homeowners completed a radon test of their home in the past year and a half and I would encourage anyone who is living in a high radon area to take the radon test today.”
Measuring for radon and, in the event of a high reading, fixing the problem 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 measurement service. The cost of a measurement is around €50 depending on which measurement company is chosen.
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, installation of a fan assisted sump is the most common method of remediation which can reduce radon levels by over 90%. The sump can be installed in a day by a contractor with little disruption to the home. The typical cost of this work is around €850 with annual running costs of approximately €100 depending on the size of fan installed.
An interactive map is available on the RPII’s website (www.rpii.ie) 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 measurement made. Information can also be obtained by phoning Freefone 1800 300 600.