Cancer-causing gas found in 600 homes

CHRISTINE Keaney’s home in Co Galway is one of almost 600 across the country found to have high levels of cancer-causing radon gas so far this year.

“I was having work done to the house and it was suggested that I should have a radon test,” said Ms Keaney, who lives on her own in a 35-year-old four-bedroom bungalow in Claregalway.

After testing her home for radon gas over the winter, she discovered that the level of radon gas was 1,500 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m³), which is over seven times the acceptable level of 200Bq/m³.

Radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and is linked to 150 to 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland.

More homes have been measured this year than ever before, due to a concerted public awareness drive by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) on the dangers of radon.

A total of 4,296 homes were measured by the institute for radon gas between January 1 and August 30. Of these, 597 were above the acceptable level of 200 Bq/m³.

Six homes in Lisdoonvarna, Co Clare; Clonmel, Co Tipperary; Ballymote, Co Sligo; and Tralee, Co Kerry were found to have 10 times the acceptable level, with the radiation dose equivalent to receiving 12 X-rays a day.

There were 58 homes that had radon levels of between 800 and 2,000 Bq/m³ in Galway (15), Sligo (14), Kerry (11), Cork (5), Mayo (4), Waterford (2), Carlow (2), with one each in Clare, Tipperary, Kilkenny, Wexford and Wicklow.

The remaining 533 results with readings of between 200 and 800 Bq/m³ were found throughout the country.

Ms Keaney, a mother of four grown-up children and nine grandchildren, said she was not scared when she got the results from the RPII in February.

“I had a virus just before Christmas and the doctor sent me for a full medical assessment, including a chest X-ray, so I knew I was OK and didn’t panic,” she said.

“The RPII were very good. They sent me a list of people who would do the remedial work that was necessary and I had the work done the following week.”

The work, which cost €1,500, reduced the radon gas level of just 22Bq/m³ and was completed in just one day.

Ms Keaney, a member of the Irish Countrywomen’s Association, said she decided to go public in a bid to encourage other people to get their homes tested. “I am a mother and a grandmother and I am thinking of the future generations,” she explained.

According to the RPII there are an estimated 91,000 homes with high radon levels and the vast majority have not been tested for radon gas.

RPII chief executive Dr Ann McGarry said home owners needed to take the matter seriously.

“It doesn’t matter if you live in a new or old house, in a high or low radon risk area, or even if your home already has a radon barrier. the only way to make sure that you and your family is not at risk is to test.”

Source and characteristics

* Radon is a radioactive gas naturally produced in the ground from uranium that is present in small quantities in all rocks and soils.

* The gas is colourless, odourless and tasteless and can only be measured with special equipment.

* Radon produces tiny radioactive particles that are deposited in the airways when inhaled and on the tissue of the lung.

* Radon is in the same group of carcinogens as asbestos and tobacco smoke, but is not linked to any other types of respiratory illnesses or other types of cancer.

* A radon measurement is usually carried out by placing two small detectors in your home for three months.

* More information is available on the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland at www.rpii.ie or on Freefone 1800 300 600.


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