Strategy to tackle radon cancer

A national strategy will be launched today to tackle the 250 new lung cancer cases diagnosed each year which are linked to exposure to radon gas.

The new plan is designed to reduce the number of new cancer cases associated with people in houses and workplaces where there are high levels of the radioactive gas.

The National Radon Control Strategy, which contains a total of 48 recommendations, calls for improved building standards and better training of building professionals. It also supports the exchange of information at the time of selling properties and continuing radon testing in social housing as well as raising public awareness of the issue.

The strategy shows dealing with radon through prevention measures in new buildings is by far the most cost-effective approach. However, it also recognises there is a need to improve testing of the existing stock of 1.6m homes.

The naturally occurring radioactive gas, which results from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils, is believed to be responsible for around 13% of all lung cancer cases diagnosed in Ireland each year — the second biggest cause of the disease after smoking, equating to around 200 deaths a year.

It has no smell, colour or taste and can only be detected using special equipment. The cost of a radon testing kit for homes is approximately €50.

Radon poses no threat outdoors as it dilutes to harmless concentrations but it can accumulate to dangerous level in enclosed spaces.

A national radon survey carried out by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland during the 1990s calculated that 7% of the national housing stock in existence at the time had radon concentration in excess of the safety level of 200 Becquerels per cubic metre.


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