For many years, the Government, through the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, has committed significant resources to assessing the incidence of radon gas, highlighting public awareness of it and the health risks associated with prolonged exposure to high concentrations.
During the 1990s, the RPII carried out a nationwide survey of radon gas in domestic dwellings. Based on its results, the RPII estimated that 91,000 houses, approximately 7% of the national housing stock, have radon concentration levels in excess of the national reference level of 200 Bq/m3. This is the reference level adopted by the Government for houses, and the level above which it is recommended that radon remediation works should be considered. The nature of the survey does not make it possible to estimate the number of occupants, whether they are elderly people or people in receipt of social welfare payments, living in houses estimated to have radon levels above the reference level.
The testing of houses for radon is a straightforward, non-invasive and inexpensive process, costing approximately €50. Furthermore, in many situations, relatively straightforward and inexpensive remediation measures, such as improved ventilation, can be effective in reducing radon concentration levels.
I understand from the RPII that in recent years, information has been provided to it from the public and contractors that enables it to keep general track of the cost of remediation work. On that basis, the average cost of remediation is between €2,000 and €3,000 per house. The most expensive remediation work brought to the Department's attention cost €8,000, and that was a unique case.
The RPII keeps a list of contractors who provide remediation services. That list is offered as a public service. The RPII recommends that any householder planning to carry out remediation should contact several such contractors to get the most competitive quotation.
There is no provision for a State grant to assist in remediation work; nor had that been included in the types of works covered in the past by the essential repairs grant or the special housing aid for the elderly scheme. However, in the context of the new housing aid for older people scheme, which is to be introduced later this year, and in deference to the Deputy, I will have the Department examine the possibility that where a suite of works is grant-aided to make an older person's home habitable and radon levels are of serious concern, radon remediation measures might be allowable.