Radon gas levels in Cork home equivalent to an X-ray per day 

Radon gas levels in Cork home equivalent to an X-ray per day 

EPA programme manager Andy Fanning,  director Micheal Lehane, and scientist Alison Dowdall at the launch of the agency's new radon maps. Picture: Chris Bellew/Fennell Photography

A Cork family who rang a remediation firm on the back of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) latest radon warning was told the amount of cancer-causing gas in their daughter’s bedroom was the equivalent of an X-ray being done every day.

A new online interactive map from the EPA, outlining radon gas levels around the country, crashed due to the volume of traffic on it within hours of going live on Thursday. 

The interactive map was not available again on Friday as it was “being upgraded to deal with very high demand”.

The radon risk map. Picture: EPA
The radon risk map. Picture: EPA

The EPA report revealed that 170,000 homes across the country are thought to be at risk from the radioactive gas, which has been linked with an increase in lung cancer, with Munster and Connaught particularly vulnerable.

Odourless gas

Radon, a gas that originates from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils is an odourless cancer-causing gas. Every year in Ireland 350 new lung cancer cases are linked to exposure to radon, which also has no taste or colour.

A further 45,000 homes have been added to the list of at-risk sites since the last EPA estimate 20 years ago.

On the map, about one in five homes in the red-coloured areas — which is most of Cork City, East Cork and parts of North Cork — are likely to have high radon levels

The EPA website has details of remediation works that can be done, with the most common being the installation of an active radon sump, which draws the radon-rich air from under the floor and vents it outside before it is drawn into your home.

Remediation costs

While it can be typically installed in one day, the work can cost as much as €1,500, the EPA said.

In the case of one Cork family, a woman described how they had their house tested in 2014 and, despite some rooms showing high levels, they were “unaware of the health risk involved”.

“After the EPA report, we rang one of the remediation firms and their reaction was, ‘Why didn’t you act on this before’,” she said. “While we knew the levels were above what they should be, we didn’t realise the extent of the risk.

“Our daughter’s bedroom has a rate of 360 becquerels. In layman’s terms that is the equivalent of an X-ray a day. We were told the phone hasn’t stopped ringing for the company since the report came out.” 

Increase in calls

Tony McLoughlin, from the Radon Aware Group in Clare, a registered remediation contractor, said that he has seen an increase in calls in recent days.

Mr McLoughlin said it was a good thing that people were educating themselves about radon gas and the potential dangers. He added that remediation works, if needed, can typically cost around €700 but can be more expensive depending on the type of home and how old it is.

Typically any time there’s a media campaign we’d see that interest in it and we’ve seen that here

In a statement, the EPA said it was “very encouraging that people reacted so quickly and wanted to see the risk in their area” and reiterated its recommendation that everyone test their home for radon.

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