The Government has established a new expert group to tackle the health risks posed by radon gas. Exposure to radon gas contributes to approximately 200 lung cancer deaths in Ireland each year. Most exposure occurs in the home. One of the major challenges is the lack of awareness about the risks people face from radon gas and what they can do to reduce them.
The establishment of the National Radon Strategy Group means that, for the first time, all of the relevant public bodies have been brought together with a clear mandate from Government to come up with solutions to the radon problem. The group has been given two years to complete this task.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It is colourless, odourless and tasteless and can only be measured using specialised equipment. It is formed in the ground by the radioactive decay of uranium, which is present in variable quantities in all rocks and soils. Being a gas, radon has the ability to move through the soil and enter buildings through small cracks, holes or imperfections that may exist in the floor area.
Once in a building radon quickly decays to produce radioactive particles which are suspended in the air. When inhaled these particles can be deposited in the airways and attach themselves to lung tissue. This gives rise to a radiation dose, which may cause lung cancer.
The national Reference Level for radon in homes is 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). The becquerel is the unit of radioactivity.
It is estimated that over 91,000 homes in the country have radon concentrations above the national Reference Level.