HSE demands plan to deal with radon-linked lung cancer
Published 29/04/2010 | 05:00
UP to 255,000 people now live in Irish homes with radon gas at cancer-causing levels, a report published yesterday by the HSE reveals.
And most of the 200 people who die from radon-related lung cancer every year have just "modest" levels of the odourless, invisible killer gas in their homes, it shows.
HSE doctors and senior officials from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) who jointly compiled the report called yesterday for the urgent establishment of a task force to develop a new national strategy to fight the problem.
Ireland has the eighth highest concentration of radon in the home in the world, and the highest anywhere in Europe, according to the report.
Approximately one-third of the country, mainly in the west and the south-east, is designated as having high levels of radioactive radon.
The report warns the number of people affected will have increased in recent years because of the large growth in house numbers.
"This means that over 255,0000 people may be living in homes with high radon concentrations," it warns.
"Based on current epidemiological evidence it is estimated that between 150 and 200 lung cancer deaths in Ireland every year can be linked to radon."
The HSE and the RPII called on all householders, especially those in high risk areas, to test their homes for radon.
According to the report about 9pc of schools surveyed had one or more rooms with double the acceptable radon limit.
The report says that homes with high radon concentrations can be made safe using straightforward and inexpensive building methods.
The highest level ever detected was in a private house in Castleisland, Co Kerry. The level was 49,000 becquerels (bqs) -- the safety limit is 200.
The heath and radiation experts recommended a new task force to develop funding priorities and examine the effectiveness of current policies.
The aim was to propose evidence-based measures that would lead to a reduction in lung cancer cases linked to radon.
The report says the risks posed by long-term exposure to safe levels of radon is similar to other everyday risks such as death from road traffic accidents or accidents in the home.
The risk from radon arises from it seeping into buildings from the ground where it can accumulate to very high concentrations.
Testing your home for radon costs just €56 and involves placing small plastic detectors -- sent out by post -- in two rooms. Details from rpii.ie