80,000 families may be at risk from gas that causes cancer
FEWER than one in 10 homes at risk of containing high levels of cancer-causing radon gas have undergone testing.
The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) has said it was concerned that more than 80,000 families may be unnecessarily exposed to the gas, and that some people could be receiving a radiation dose equivalent to 15 chest X-rays a day. The latest round of monitoring has found that four homes have levels 22 times above acceptable limits.
A total of 181 properties have high levels, and require remediation works, the RPII said. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that originates from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. It has no smell, colour or taste and can only be detected using special detectors.
In enclosed spaces, it can accumulate to unacceptable levels, which give rise to a radon dose. It is linked to 250 deaths from lung cancer every year.
RPII chief executive Dr Ann McGarry said four homes with particularly high radon levels – between 10 and 22 times the acceptable level – had been identified. Two are in the Ballindooley and Castlegar areas of Galway, one in the Campile area of Wexford, and one in Ballisodare, Co Sligo.
The families living in these homes would have received a radiation dose equivalent to up to 15 chest X-rays every day. In addition, 25 homes with up to 10 times the acceptable level were identified in Dublin (one), Galway (eight), Kerry (four), Mayo (two), Sligo (two), Tipperary (one), Waterford (two) and Wexford (five).
The remaining 152 homes had radon levels up to four times the acceptable level and were found in high radon areas throughout the country.
"Although we are pleased that almost 1,200 homeowners have tested their home for radon in the last eight months, the rate of testing is very low," Dr McGarry said.
"Our research indicates that there are over 91,000 Irish homes with high levels of radon and, so far, only about 8,000 of these have been identified. Many families are unnecessarily being exposed to high levels of radon in their home. Of concern to us is that only one in four homeowners, having tested and found a high reading, have taken action to reduce the high level of radon present. That means three quarters of homeowners are living with the knowledge that they are putting their family at risk when the problem can easily be fixed." To test for radon, a detector is placed in a bedroom and the second in a living room for a three-month period.
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. Information can also be obtained at 1800 300 600.