Thank you for the opportunity to raise this issue. The debate about radon gas levels has been concentrated mainly in the western counties of Galway, Mayo and Clare. Although in recent times the Radiological Protection Institute has carried out a nationwide measurement of radon gas levels in every county, in many instances the survey is limited. It is a question of householders being invited to participate and payment of a fee of £15. Even where the survey is limited it provides valuable pointers to the radon gas levels that may exist in particular parts of the country.
In regard to the results for County Louth I have been pursuing the matter by way of parliamentary question and, latterly, by way of correspondence with the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communication, Deputy Cowen. We were surprised and indeed disturbed at some of the indications of the results from County Louth, particularly in the Cooley Peninsula. The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland operates on a reference level of about 200 becquerels per cubic metre. In one house in Cooley the level reached 752 becquerels per cubic metre, considerably above the reference level.
The survey in County Louth was very limited. To get a more accurate measurement it would be necessary to undertake a more intensive survey. The environmental research unit of the Department of the Environment provides invaluable information to people who experience a problem in the environs of their house. The cost of the remedial works necessary in some instances must be taken into consideration. Contractors in the west specialise in providing a service to people who find themselves in a dilemma but along the east coast where the problem was previously unknown it will take some time for the building sector to come to terms with the problem. The ductingextraction arrangement seems to be the most popular way of dealing with the problem. As costs are involved, householders would like to be assured before spending money on remedial works that they will provide a solution to their problem. I am not sure if the new building regulations take account of this problem. If not, perhaps the time has come for us to examine them with a view to inserting a more assertive clause to deal with the matter.
In the Cooley area of County Louth the number of deaths from cancer and cancer-related illnesses is high. The close proximity to Sellafield and the most recently identified problem of radon gas levels are a great cause of concern among the people living in the area and I hope the Radiological Protection Institute will carry out a more intensive survey to identify the extent of the problem. I am not sure of the position where the survey has already been effected. It is not simply a matter of deciding to carry out a survey and providing the measurement equipment; it would take some time to carry out such a survey. It is possible to get a variation in the reading from one room to another in a dwelling and that would also have to be taken into consideration. I know the Minister, Deputy Cowen, is particularly interested in this subject and I await with interest his response.