HOMEOWNERS will be obliged to carry out tests for radon gas before selling their properties.
The Government plans to force people selling their homes to provide information on whether radon is present to the purchaser, and is also considering obliging landlords to carry out tests prior to renting out a property.
The measures are contained in the National Radon Control Strategy, which will be launched in Kilkenny today by Environment Minister Phil Hogan.
Other measures aimed at tackling the problem, which could affect more than 100,000 homes, include changes to the building regulations where builders would be required to install special sumps to draw the gas from the home, with specialist training also planned for the construction industry.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas formed in the ground as uranium decays. It is linked with up to 250 lung cancer deaths a year.
The safe limit is 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3), and the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) believes 7pc of all homes are in high-risk areas and may have levels above this.
Despite the risk, only a small number have been tested.
"Despite the significant progress made in Ireland in some areas such as schools, significant challenges remain," the strategy says. "The rate of testing in private homes, for example, remains poor; it is estimated that, to date, only 8pc of homes predicted to have radon problems have been identified.
"Progress in addressing radon in workplaces has also been mixed. More than 500 state workplaces have been tested and remediated. A number of large private sector employers have taken a similar approach. Despite this, however, the vast majority of Irish workplaces remain untested."
The strategy covers six key areas, including radon prevention, awareness-raising, advice for homeowners and businesses with high levels – and addresses the possible presence of the gas in public buildings and workplaces.
There are also specific measures for property transactions, including a requirement that information is exchanged when buildings are bought or sold.
The strategy was developed by an inter-agency group that included the Department of the Environment, the HSE, the RPII and the Geological Survey of Ireland.
The document will be available from www.environ.ie later today.