Homes in some parts of Dublin are thought to be at high risk from radon, the cancer causing radioactive gas.
Across Ireland, 170,000 homes are located in areas with high radon levels, according to an updated map released by the Environmental Protection Agency.
This represents an additional 45,000 Irish households since the last assessment carried out in 2002.
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Radon exposure is linked to 350 new cases of lung cancer in Ireland each year.
The map shows that approximately 1 in 5 homes in ‘red’ areas are likely to have high levels of radon. Orange areas are approximately 1 in 10 while yellow is 1 in 20.
EPA Director Michéal Lehane said at the National Radon Forum on Thursday, “Radon is a serious public health hazard.”
But what exactly is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas formed by the decay of uranium in rocks and soils that can cause lung cancer.
It has no smell, color or taste and can only be found with the help of special detectors.
Outdoors, the gas dilutes quickly to low levels, but in enclosed spaces such as homes, workplaces, or any other building, it can build up to unacceptable concentrations.
The country’s new radon maps have been developed as part of the government’s national radon control strategy, which aims to reduce the number of radon-related lung cancers in Ireland.
They have been compiled by Trinity College Dublin, the Geological Survey of Ireland and the Institute for Economic and Social Research alongside the EPA, and show that more homes than ever before are at risk.
But something can be done about it.
Households and businesses can check their exposure levels on an interactive tool on the EPA’s website.
However, the tool went down on Thursday afternoon due to increased traffic, with the EPA saying it was working to resolve any issues with the site.
“The new maps combine thousands of radon measurements, with detailed geological information, and are a significant revision to the previous map from 2002,” added EPA Director Lehane.
“[They] make it easy for anyone to find out the radon risk in their area by using the eircode search on the EPA website.
Following the latest radon estimates, residents across the country are urged to have their homes and businesses tested for gas, especially those located in high-risk areas.
“It’s the only way to protect yourself and your family from this carcinogenic gas,” Director Lehane said.
“Employers also have a responsibility to ensure that their employees are protected from exposure to this radioactive gas.”
Radon testing is simple and fixing a radon problem will reduce the health risk from this radioactive gas.
Yvonne Mullooly, Deputy Chief Executive of the Health and Safety Authority, welcomed the new radon maps saying: “Employers in high radon areas are required to test their workplaces for radon.
“The new maps allow them to clearly identify where they are legally required to test, allowing them to target assets in areas with the highest radon risk.
“The HSA will continue to support employers by providing information and through our BeSMART online risk assessment tool www.BeSMART.ie.”
What if you live in an area with high radon levels?
Some areas of the country are more at risk from radon than others and are therefore called high radon areas.
In these areas, the EPA predicts that more than 10% of homes will have radon levels above the national baseline.
But gas testing is simple and inexpensive – and if high levels are detected inside your home, there are simple solutions.
Simple solutions include sealing around attic hatches, sealing large openings, and increasing ventilation both in the attic and under the floors.
The EPA has a list of registered radon testing services and contractors that offer radon remediation service if high levels are found.
The Environmental Protection Agency team are also available to answer questions on the issue at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1800 300 600.
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