High levels of cancer gas found in 600 homes
Published 18/09/2010 | 05:00
JUST one in three households found with dangerously high levels of radon gas which causes 200 cancer deaths each year is making efforts to reduce the risk.
The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) said yesterday that, despite high levels of the gas being detected in their homes, just 30pc improved ventilation or installed radon sumps, despite radon being the second-highest cause of lung cancer after smoking.
The admission came after it emerged that high levels of the gas had been discovered in almost 600 homes across the country so far this year.
Six houses had more than 10 times the acceptable limits, with the occupants of one home living with the equivalent of 4,375 chest X-rays each year.
RPII chief executive Ann McGarry said thousands of families could be unknowingly living with high concentrations of the gas.
"We know radon levels in Ireland are among the highest in Europe and there are an estimated 91,000 homes out there with high levels," she said.
"The vast majority of householders have not had their home tested for radon gas. These figures show us that thousands of families throughout the country are unknowingly living with very high concentrations of radon gas and therefore they have no idea that they are at increased risk of developing lung cancer."
Worried homeowners can contact the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland at www.rpii.ie or freefone 1800 300 600 to have their home tested. The RPII will post out two radon detectors, about the size of an air freshener, which are left in the home for three months. They are posted back to the RPII for analysis and the results are sent to the homeowners, who will be advised if there is a need for remedial action. The institute charges €56 for the test.
This year 4,296 homes were measured between January 1 and August 30. Of these, 597 were above the safe limit of 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3).
But six homes -- two in Tralee, Co Kerry, two in Ballymote, Co Sligo, and one each in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare, and Clonmel, Co Tipperary -- had more than 10 times the acceptable limit, with measurements between 2,000 and 3,500 Bq/m3. The radiation dose to the occupants of the home with the highest radon levels were equivalent to receiving 4,375 chest X-rays per year, or 12 per day.
Another 58 homes had radon levels of between 800 and 2,000 Bq/m3. The remaining 533 results had readings of between 200 and 800 Bq/m3.
The RPII said it was working closely with these householders to reduce the radon levels and the risk to their health.
Although radon levels vary around the country, and even between neighbouring houses, some of the highest levels are found in parts of counties Wicklow, Wexford, and Carlow in the east; and Sligo, Mayo, Galway, and Clare in the west.
The cost of installing protection measures ranges from €100 to €1,500.
The gas can build up under a house and seep into rooms, raising the risk of cancer.
A spokesman said that less than one-third of people carried out remedial work.
"If you have a very high concentration, a radon sump -- which costs from €1,200 to €1,500 -- will bring the levels right down. It's really simple. A hole is drilled into the foundations, and a pipe is put into it. You then put a fan into the pipe and run it up the side of the house. It sucks the radon out and pumps it into the air.
"If you're just over the safe levels, it's just a case of unblocking vents or increasing ventilation, which can cost just €100."