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460,000 people in Ireland could be exposed to cancer-causing radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, which does not have a taste, odour or colour.

Image: Lee via Flickr/CC

ALMOST 10% OF the Irish population is exposed to levels of radon above that considered safe, according to a new study.

Radon is the principal source of radiation exposure, making up 56% of the overall dose received in Ireland. Exposure increases the likelihood of developing lung cancer, and causes approximately 250 deaths from lung cancer in Ireland each year.

The research was led by geologists from Trinity College Dublin. They found that the probability of living in a home with a concentration level above that considered safe is calculated to be 19% in high risk areas, 8% in medium risk areas and 3% in low risk areas. This equates to around 265,000 people in high risk areas, 160,000 in medium risk areas and 35,000 in low risk areas.

The research found that the south-east and west of the country are prominent high risk areas.

A new map was made with the research and will now need to be validated.

Modelled Indoor Radon Probability Source: Trinity College

Assistant Professor in Isotopes and the Environment from the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin, Quentin Crowley, said:

“EU member states need to translate European radiation protection legislation into national law, and this requires an accurate definition of radon-prone areas. Our research provides one example of how national-scale radon risk maps can be produced, which is especially relevant to countries developing their national radon programmes.”

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, which does not have a taste, odour or colour. It can only be detected using specialised equipment. The EPA says that radon “comes from the ground and gets into buildings mainly through cracks in floors or gaps around pipes or cables”.

They say that a measurement takes three months because of significant day to day variations in radon levels.

The research has just been published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. For more information on radon, its risks or to apply for a radon test, click here.

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