Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that originates from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. It is colourless, odourless and tasteless and can only be measured using special equipment. When radon surfaces in the open air, it is quickly diluted to harmless concentrations, but when it enters an enclosed space, such as a house or other building, it can sometimes accumulate to unacceptably high concentrations. Radon decays to form tiny radioactive particles, some of which remain suspended in the air. When inhaled into the lungs these particles give a radiation dose that may damage cells in the lung and eventually lead to lung cancer.
The Government is committed to tackling this issue and has established a National Radon Control Strategy. The Strategy commits to publishing a yearly update as to progress.
Scale of the radon problem in Ireland
On the basis of a nationwide survey of radon in domestic dwellings, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Radiological Protection (ORP) have estimated that there are some 91,000 houses in Ireland with Radon concentrations in excess of 200 Becquerels per cubic metre. This is the reference level above which the government recommends that householders should consider carrying out remediation measures.
The ORP have produced a map showing higher Radon areas around the country. This can be found on the EPA website.
What is being done to address the problem?
Recognising the scale of the radon problem, an inter-agency group was set up by the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government in November 2011 and tasked with developing a strategy, which would comprehensively address the radon problem in Ireland.
The National Radon Control Strategy (NRCS) was published in February 2014 and a cross-Departmental/Agency Group was tasked to implement the key recommendations and to monitor and regularly report on progress.
What is the aim of National Radon Control Strategy (NRCS)?
The aim of the NRCS is to minimise the exposure to radon gas for people in Ireland and to reduce, to the greatest extent practicable, the incidence of radon-related lung cancers. The Strategy aims to reduce both the overall population risk and the individual risk for people living in areas with high-radon concentrations.
An effective response to the radon problem will involve a range of measures to reduce high-radon levels in existing buildings and to prevent high-radon levels occurring in new buildings, and will require input from a range of public bodies and other stakeholders and can be best achieved within the framework of a co-ordinated Government-led strategy.
The Strategy contains recommendations on a broad range of measures aimed at reducing the risk from radon to people living in Ireland, which are set out in six thematic areas as follows:
- installation of passive preventive measures in new buildings;
- use of property transactions (sales and rental) to drive action on radon;
- raising of radon awareness and encouraging individual action on radon;
- provision of advice and guidance for individual householders and employers with high-radon readings;
- Promoting confidence in radon services; and
- Addressing radon in workplaces and public buildings
We have published two National Radon Control Strategy Co-ordination Group - Year Reports which can be found in the related publications part of the website.