HSE: Radon gas barriers breached at mental health facility

Radon gas barriers were breached in a state-of-the-art mental health facility in Co Kerry which opened in July, the HSE confirmed.

But it did not disclose the levels of the radioactive gas detected during what it said was a standard three-month monitoring of a €13.5m residential facility, Deer Lodge, in Killarney.

The head of mental health in Cork Kerry Community HealthCare, Sinead Glennon informed the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA) that while a radon barrier was fitted, the results of the studies “showed a number of areas within the building have radon levels greater than 200 Bq/m3 which is the reference level for radon in residential facilities”.

There was no immediate danger to staff or residents, she said.

The company, who completed the radon survey, advised on necessary remediation works which involve fitting extract fans at high levels “in nine external locations” around the building, Ms Glennon said.

The PNA, however, said staff are “stunned” a new building completed within the last year and opened only in July was already found to be defective and requiring remedial works.

The PNA is demanding to know the exact levels detected.

“Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is released from the ground and bedrock associated with limestone and is estimated to kill 200 people in Ireland each year as a result of its inhalation the gas and causing lung cancer,” said PNA spokesman Cormac Williams.

“It carries the same danger level as asbestos and cigarette smoking. All new buildings are required to have a radon barrier fitted to the floor area to prevent the gas from leaking into the building. How the radon barrier failed in Deer Lodge is a question that needs to be answered.”

The PNA is seeking a detailed report from the HSE.

“Given the lack of trust members now have in the HSE, we will also have to consider asking the Health and Safety Authority to review this whole situation,” Mr Williams said.

Cork Kerry Community Healthcare confirmed: “Routine monitoring has detected a slightly elevated level of radon at Deer Lodge. We have spoken to staff and residents and will keep them updated as works are undertaken to bring the levels down.

“We acted as soon as routine monitoring detected the raised levels.

“The levels, although raised are not at dangerous levels, and the action we are taking is appropriate and proportionate.”

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