Radon gas levels found in home equal to 6,500 X-rays
RESIDENTS of a family home were receiving the equivalent of 6,500 chest x-rays a year because of high levels of the cancer-causing radon gas.
The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) said that more than 430 homes have been found in the past 18 months with high levels of the naturally occurring gas, which is directly linked to more than 200 lung cancer deaths a year.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that originates from the radioactive decay of uranium in rocks and soils.
It has no smell, colour or taste and can only be detected using special detectors.
Outdoors, radon quickly dilutes to harmless concentrations but when it enters an enclosed space, such as a house or other building, it can accumulate to unacceptably high concentrations. This gives rise to a radiation dose, which may cause lung cancer.
Ireland has one of the highest radon levels in Europe, with up to 91,000 homes believed to have high levels of the gas. Ongoing testing in recent years has identified 7,900 to date.
The latest series of tests show that 434 homes have rates above safe limits, with the highest level found in a home in Tralee, Kerry, which was 26 times the acceptable level.
The occupants were receiving the equivalent radiation dose of approximately 18 chest X-rays per day or 6,500 per year.
Ten other homes – five in Kerry, three in Galway and one each in Clare and Wexford – were identified with radon levels in excess of 10 times the acceptable level.
RPII chief executive Dr Ann McGarry said that someone died every second day from radon-induced lung cancer, adding that testing was a simple exercise.
"Ireland has a significant radon problem with some of the highest radon levels found in Europe," she said.
The test involves placing a radon detector in a bedroom, and a second in a living room, for three months. 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, installation of a fan-assisted sump is the most common method of solving the issue.
The typical cost of this work is around €850 with annual running costs of approximately €100 depending on the size of fan installed.
An interactive map is available on www.rpii.ie, where people can search for their address and see if their home or workplace is in a high radon area.