Launch of the Public Consultation on the draft National Radon Control Strategy for Ireland
Fergus O’Dowd, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government, today (17 January, 2013) launched the public consultation on the draft National Radon Control Strategy for Ireland. Speaking at the National Radon Forum in Dublin, Minister O’Dowd stressed that input from the public is key to ensuring that Ireland has a radon strategy that is fit for purpose.
Minister O’Dowd said “This public consultation will ensure that everyone who has something to say about the direction of Government policies in relation to radon will have the opportunity to make their voice heard in the framing of a National Radon Control Strategy.”
Today’s event, the National Radon Forum, organised by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII), is an annual event at which experts and other interested parties can contribute ideas to address this significant and complex public health issue. Minister O’Dowd stressed the importance that reducing radon risk demands innovative and co-ordinated effort among different Government Departments, levels of government, state agencies, private companies, other interested bodies and the public.
Minister O’Dowd said “Today there is a wide variety of people present with different experiences and expertise to inform the debate on this important public health issue.”
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It is colourless, odourless and tasteless and can only be measured using specialised equipment. It is formed in the ground by the radioactive decay of uranium, which is present in variable quantities in all rocks and soils. Being a gas, radon has the ability to move through the soil and enter buildings through small cracks, holes or imperfections that may exist in the floor area.
Once in a building radon quickly decays to produce radioactive particles which are suspended in the air. When inhaled these particles can be deposited in the airways and attach themselves to lung tissue. This gives rise to a radiation dose, which may cause lung cancer.
The national Reference Level for radon in homes is 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). The becquerel is the unit of radioactivity.
The RPII estimate that over 91,000 homes in the country have radon concentrations above the national Reference Level.
A High Radon Area, as identified by the RPII, is an area where more than 10% of the homes are predicted to have annual average radon concentrations above the national Reference Level. Approximately 33% of the country is classified as a High Radon Area. These areas are most prevalent in the South-East and the West.
The RPII advises all householders, particularly those living in High Radon Areas, to have their homes tested for radon. Testing for radon involves the placing of one radon detector in a bedroom and a second in a living room for a three-month period. The detectors are the size of an air freshener and can be sent and returned by post for analysis.
Long-term exposure to radon increases the risk of lung cancer. Radon can be linked to up to 200 lung cancer cases in Ireland every year. For people who smoke, or who have smoked, the risk from radon can be up to 25 times greater than for people who never smoked.