HOMEOWNERS COULD HAVE to test their own homes for the presence of the cancer-causing gas radon under new measures proposed in a Department of Environment study.
The Department of Environment published the National Radon Control Strategy today, which is a report of the interagency group established by the Environment Minister, Phil Hogan.
Tackling health problems
Hogan said that the strategy aims to tackle the serious health problem of radon gas, by reducing the number of lung cancer cases caused by the gas.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, has no smell and can only be detected using special equipment.
It’s the second-greatest cause of lung cancer in Ireland, with exposure to radon accounting for approximately 13 per cent of all lung cancers in Ireland, which is 250 cases a year.
Approximately one third of Ireland is classified as a high radon area – mainly the west and south-east.
The rate of testing in private homes remains poor, and the report suggests that before they sell on their homes, the owners could have the building tested and pass on that information to the new owner.
[R]aising questions on radon during the conveyancing process has been found in other jurisdictions to be both practical and effective in raising the rate of radon testing of existing houses.
The report suggests that a targeted information programme could be undertaken to raise awareness and understanding of the need for these measures among stakeholders such as solicitors, estate agents and home buyers.
So far only 5 per cent of private homes have been tested for radon, and the study says that there are many householders living in homes with high radon levels “who are completely unaware of the problem in their own home”.
At the current rate of testing it would take hundreds of years for all buildings in Ireland to be tested.
It suggests a multi-annual awareness-raising programme should be adopted, with information targeted at high-radon areas.
Plus, consideration should be given to introducing a scheme which would provide some form of means-tested financial assistance covering remediation, if the cost is a disincentive.
It also looks at tackling radon in workplaces and buildings.
The study suggests that new houses in all parts of the country be fitted with a standby radon sump, which could be activated at a later stage to reduce any high radon concentrations subsequently found.
The action plan says that the recommendations will be addressed over a four-year period.
It was also announced that the department has established a National Radon Control Strategy Co-Ordination Group, and Hogan’s department has written to the relevant departments and agencies to request that they nominate a representative to the group.
The full report can be read here.