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 here.
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 with high radon levels.
"These figures show us that thousands of families 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 all rocks and soils. RPII said that, of 4,296 homes measured for radon 597 were above the suitable level.
Six homes -- two in Tralee, two in Ballymote and one each in Lisdoonvarna and Clonmel -- had more than 10 times the acceptable level.