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Cancer-causing radon at 2.5 times acceptable limit found at Kerry mental health home

The Deer Lodge facility in Killarney was opened at a cost of €13 million.

FOUR RESIDENTS OF a newly-built Co. Kerry mental health facility were forced to move after radon levels at two-and-a-half times the acceptable limit were detected.

The 40-bed Deer Lodge facility in Killarney was completed at a cost of €13 million but radon levels caused further work to be carried out after residents had eventually moved into it.

The unit was built to replace the O’Connor Unit in St. Finian’s Hospital but a dispute between the HSE and the Psychiatric Nurses’ Association led to a protracted delay that saw the state-of-the art facility lying idle.

Not long after it finally opened in July, however, radon issues were detected at the facility that forced some of the residents who had moved in to be relocated temporarily.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas which is the principal source of radiation exposure and can lead to lung cancer.

New buildings are required to be fitted with a radon barrier and the HSE says that the facility was fitted with such a barrier.

The issues were highlighted by Fianna Fáil TD John Brassil who sought details from the Minister of Health and the HSE as to the cost of the repair works to reduce the presence of radon at the facility.

The HSE said in a response that a three-month study into the presence of radon was commissioned before the facility was opened.

The study found that 21 measure points were above the acceptable radon level for residential homes of 200Bq/m3.

Of those, 12 were over twice the acceptable level and two were above 500Bq/m3.

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The HSE said that work to rectify these problems commented on 17 October, just under three months after the facility opened.

Deputy Brassil told TheJournal.ie that four residents were moved during the repair works, which the HSE said consisted mainly of electrical works that lasted over two weeks.

“The cost of the works is estimated at €11,000 and this funding is being provided by HSE Estates as part of its radon programme,” the HSE said.

A further survey is due to be completed to find out if the repair works have been successful but Brassil says questions remain as to how the facility was allowed to open with radon issues.

“I just hope that they continually monitor the facility to ensure that the levels remain at an acceptable level,” he said.

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

Read: Warning to locals as high rates of cancer-causing radioactive gas discovered in Galway >

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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