Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Questions (206)

John Dennehy

Question:

325 Mr. Dennehy asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government if he will undertake a publicity campaign to make the public aware of the dangers of radon gas; if he will provide assistance for the public to obtain the necessary detectors to ascertain if their homes are at risk from radon gas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2350/04]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

It is not proposed to provide Exchequer funding to assist the procurement of radon detectors, which are inexpensive, for measurement of radon gas in the home.

Over the years the Government, through the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, has committed significant resources to assessing the extent of the radon problem throughout the country and to increasing public awareness of radon.

During the years 1992 to 1999, the RPII carried out a national survey of radon in domestic dwellings aimed at assessing the extent of the radon problem in homes. The survey involved the measurement by the RPII of radon for a 12 month period in a random selection of homes in each 10 km by 10 km grid square throughout the country. The RPII's website contains a comprehensive map of the high radon areas in Ireland as well as the report of its national survey of radon in homes.

Upgraded building regulations, introduced in June 1997, require all new houses commencing construction on or after 1 July 1998 to incorporate radon protection measures. In February 2002 my Department published a booklet entitled Radon in Existing Buildings — Corrective Options advising designers, builders and home owners on remediation options for reducing radon in existing houses to, or below, the national reference level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre, Bq/m3.

In recent months the RPII has undertaken several initiatives to heighten awareness of the radon issue in Ireland. In October 2003 the RPII held the second in a series of three national radon fora in Galway to raise awareness of radon as a health risk. In November 2003 a media campaign on radon in the workplace was launched in ten high radon counties. Advertisements were placed in 13 local newspapers in Counties Carlow, Clare, Galway, Kerry, Kilkenny, Mayo, Sligo, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow.

The RPII will shortly publish its report on the radon in schools programme covering radon results in some 3,400 schools. This is the first such comprehensive survey to have been carried out in Europe.

The RPII is also currently revising its booklet, Information on Radon in Homes, and will shortly publish a new booklet aimed at householders with high radon levels giving them advice on remediation options. Wall charts for display in libraries, medical centres, etc. providing relevant public advice will, in addition, be distributed by RPII.

Both the RPII and my Department will continue to use all appropriate opportunities to raise public awareness of radon.