High levels of cancer-causing gas in 600 homes
High levels of cancer-causing radon gas have been discovered in almost 600 homes across the country so far this year, it emerged today.
The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) revealed six houses had more than 10 times the acceptable measurement, with the occupants of one home living with the equivalent of 12 chest X-rays per day.
The institute says radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and is linked to up to 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland.
Ann McGarry, RPII chief executive, fears thousands of families nationwide are unknowingly living with very high concentrations of the gas.
"We know that radon levels in Ireland are among the highest in Europe and there are an estimated 91,000 homes out there with high radon 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."
Radon is a radioactive gas which is naturally produced in the ground from the uranium present in small quantities in all rocks and soils. You cannot smell, see or taste it.
RPII said that, of 4,296 homes measured for radon between January 1 and August 30, 597 were above the suitable level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3).
Tests revealed six homes - two in Tralee, two in Ballymote and one each in Lisdoonvarna and Clonmel - had more than 10 times the acceptable level 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.
Elsewhere 58 homes had radon levels of between 800 and 2000 Bq/m3. They included 15 cases in Galway, 14 in Sligo, 11 in Kerry, five in Cork and four in Mayo. Houses in Waterford, Carlow, Clare, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Wexford and Wicklow were also affected.
The remaining 533 results had readings of between 200 and 800 Bq/m3 and were found throughout the country.
The RPII said it is working closely with these householders to reduce the radon levels and the risk to their health. Worried homeowners should contact www.rpii.ie or freefone 1800 300 600.
Dr McGarry added: "Radon causes lung cancer, and for those with homes which have high levels, measuring is the first step towards making your home safe.
"It doesn't matter if you live in a new or old house, in a high or low radon risk area, or even if your home already has a radon barrier. The only way to make sure that you and your family are not at risk is to test."