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170,000 homes across Ireland thought to be at risk from Radon gas, EPA says

The gas is linked to around 350 new cases of lung cancer in Ireland every year.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Shutterstock

NEW MAPS PUBLISHED by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have shown that the number of homes in Ireland thought to be at risk from radon gas has increased by over a third.

Around 170,000 homes in Ireland are believed to be at risk of radon exposure above the national reference level, an increase of 45,000 homes from the previous estimate in 2002.

Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas that originates from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. It is invisible, colourless and odourless and can only be measured using specialised equipment.

The gas is linked to around 350 new cases of lung cancer in Ireland every year, making it the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.

Read more here on how to support a major Noteworthy project to investigate if the State is doing enough to protect families from the cancer-causing dangerous gas, radon.

The map show that large parts of the country, particularly in Munster and Connacht, have been found to be at increased risk from radon.

The maps are based on work carried out by Trinity College Dublin, Geological Survey of Ireland and the Economic and Social Research Institute alongside the EPA.

They are available to view on the EPA’s website and are searchable by Eircode and by address.

The agency is urging all householders and businesses, especially those in high radon areas, to test for the gas. 

A high radon area is any area where it is predicted that 10% or more of homes will exceed the reference level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3).

On average, Ireland has twice the indoor levels of radon gas (77 Bq/m3) when compared to the European average (39 Bq/m3).

EPA Director Michéal Lehane has described radon as a “serious public health hazard”. 

“The new maps combine thousands of radon measurements, with detailed geological information, and are a significant revision of the previous map from 2002,” he said.

He said the new maps make it easy for everyone to find out the radon risk in their local area using the eircode search on the EPA website.

“We urge people to test for radon as this is the only way of protecting you and your family from this cancer-causing gas.”

Workplaces

The EPA has said that employers also have a responsibility to ensure that their employees are protected from exposure to radon in their places of work.

According to the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, employers must identify hazards in their workplace, which includes radon, and assess, eliminate or reduce and control the risk.

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Yvonne Mullooly, Assistant Chief Executive of the HSA, said that employers in high radon areas are obliged to test their workplaces for radon.

“The new maps enable them to clearly identify where they are legally obliged to test, so allows for targeting of resources in the areas where the risk from radon is highest,” she said.

In a statement to The Journal, a spokesperson for the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications said it encourages “all householders and businesses, especially those in high-radon areas, to test for radon”.

“Testing for radon is simple and fixing a radon problem will reduce the risk to your health from this radioactive gas,” the statement said.

“A report by the National Radon Control Strategy group, which is led by the Department, will shortly be presented to Government. The report lists a range of actions to be undertaken by the group, some of which have been completed and others which are scheduled for completion within the next 2 years.

“These actions will include working with relevant agencies to ensure that conveyancing legislation includes a requirement that radon testing, and where necessary remediation, is compulsory when selling a home in a high radon area and introducing financial supports for the public, who identify high levels of radon in their home,” the statement added.

The EPA provides a list of registered radon measurement services and publishes a list of registered contractors who offer a radon remediation service if high levels are found.

The EPA radon team are also available to answer queries at radon@epa.ie or 1800 300 600.

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Jane Moore

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