341 homes were identified with high levels of cancer-causing radon gas in the first five months of this year 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 up to 200 lung cancer deaths in Ireland each year.
Commenting on the latest findings, Ms Stephanie Long, Senior Scientist at the RPII, said: “It is very encouraging that almost 2,400 homeowners completed a radon test of their home in the first five months of this year. We hope that this trend continues and results in less people being exposed to this cancer-causing gas.”
The highest radon level found was in a home in Galway city which was 19 times the acceptable level. This is the highest level ever found in a home in Galway and the occupants were receiving the equivalent of approximately 13 chest X-rays per day.
Six homes, five in Galway and one in Kerry, were identified with radon levels in excess of ten times the acceptable level. A further 42 homes had levels between four and ten times the acceptable level and were located in Galway (31), Tipperary (3), Clare (2), Cork (2), Wexford (2), Kerry (1) and Sligo (1).
The remaining 293 homes had levels up to four times the acceptable level and were found, as predicted, in High Radon Areas throughout the country.
Ms Long 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 only about 7,500 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. People need to take the radon test and if high levels are found the problem should be fixed.”
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, a fan assisted sump can be installed 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 €1,100 with annual running costs of approximately €90.
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.