Tuesday 20 August 2019

Why are more Irish families not testing their homes for radon gas?

We all have the cancer-causing radioactive gas radon in our homes yet most people have not carried out a simple test to find out if their family is at risk. 

Avoiding radiation exposure is something most people would consider an obvious thing to do.  We all have the cancer-causing radioactive gas radon in our homes yet most people have not carried out a simple test to find out if their family is at risk. EPA research shows high levels of awareness about radon: three out of four people in Ireland are aware of radon gas.  However, only one in five say that they would be likely to have their home tested.  Why is this?

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Trinity College Dublin health psychologist Professor David Hevey has looked at the psychological barriers that prevent us from taking action to protect ourselves when we are given health related advice. “In Ireland, we have a high level of awareness of the health risks from exposure to radon gas; we know it causes lung cancer. Even so, persuading people to test and fix their homes is not easy. This is because we tend to see the health risk from radon as very low or even non-existent”. 

There are many reasons for this.  The fact that radon has no colour, taste or smell means that it is easy to ignore the fact that we may have dangerously high levels of it in our home – it is “out of sight, out of mind”. We also tend to believe that radiation that is formed naturally, like radon, does less harm than man-made radiation. This is not the case – the damage from radiation is the same, wherever it comes from.  It is interesting that most of the radiation we are exposed to (about 86%) is from natural sources of radiation, the remaining exposure is from man-made radiation. 

Exposure to high levels of radon increases our risk of developing lung cancer decades later - The fact that the consequences of exposure to radon are so far into the future means that it is easy for us to “long finger” testing our homes for radon. We also find it hard to accept that our homes, which are our physical and psychological place of safety and security could be a threat to our health.

Professor Hevey continued “in these and many other ways we play down the risk to our health and are less likely to test our homes for this cancer-causing gas.  It is really important that we inform ourselves about radon so that we can check the levels in our homes and reduce our radiation exposure if we need to. The good news is that radon is easy to test and simple solutions are available to reduce high levels where necessary.  All the advice and information you need is on www.radon.ie or you can contact the Environmental Protection Agency directly on Free Phone 1800 300 600 or radon@epa.ie. Give yourself and your family peace of mind and take the radon test today”.

You can read more about Professor Hevey’s work on the reasons we tend to put off taking action to protect ourselves from radon in the EPA’s report of his work. 



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