Written Answers. - Radon Gas Levels.

Bernard J. Durkan

Ceist:

189 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Enterprise if sufficient resources have been made available to the relevant authority to monitor and control radon gas levels; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27739/01]

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland is the responsible authority for monitoring radon gas levels in Ireland.

Over recent years, the Government has committed significant resources to assessing the extent of radon problems throughout the country and in heightening public awareness of radon. The RPII has carried out a nationwide survey of radon in domestic dwellings involving the measurement of radon levels in over 11,000 dwellings making it one of the most comprehensive surveys of its kind carried out anywhere in Europe. The results of the survey were used to identify high radon areas – areas where high radon concentration levels are most prevalent.
The RPII has also recently completed a three-year nationwide survey of radon levels in all primary and post primary schools. The Minister for Education and Science has made arrangements for all schools found to have radon levels in excess of the reference level for action in schools to be remediated and this remediation work is on-going.
In 1997, the Minister for the Environment and Local Government introduced upgraded building regulations and related technical guidance documents requiring radon protection measures to be incorporated in all new houses constructed on or after 1 July 1998. Two levels of protection are laid down – a basic or precautionary level which applies to new dwellings in all parts of the country and a more advanced level which applies to new dwellings in designated high radon areas. Where works are carried out in accordance with the technical guidance documents, this will,prima facie, indicate compliance with the building regulations. A booklet “Radon in Buildings” produced by the Department of the Environment and Local Government provides advice to householders and builders on radon prevention and remediation measures which can be undertaken in new and existing houses. This booklet is currently being updated by that Department.
The Radiological Protection Act, 1991 (Ionising Radiation) Order, 2000 (S.I. No. 125 of 2000) which I signed last year, and which gave effect to Council Directive 96/29/Euratom of 13 May 1996, on the protection of the health of workers and the general public against the dangers of ionizing radiation applies to all work activities affected by radiation exposure including workplaces where radon is a problem. Under that Order, the RPII has commenced a systematic programme to direct employers to carry out radon measurements in their workplace and to implement radon remediation measures where they are shown to be necessary.
The RPII provides a radon measurement service to householders and employers and, through its freephone service, its website and publications, provides advice to the general public on radon.
FÁS, the Training and Employment Authority, in conjunction with local authorities, the RPII and the Department of the Environment and Local Government has developed a comprehensive training programme in radon remediation and prevention. I formally launched this training programme in September this year.
The Government has already approved the introduction of a radon remediation grant scheme, to be administered by the RPII to assist householders to carry out radon remediation work in respect of their homes and funding for this scheme has been provided in my Depart ment's Vote for this year. The scheme will be introduced as soon as the necessary legislation is approved by the Dáil.
I am satisfied that the resources being applied by the RPII and other Departments and agencies to monitor and control radon gas levels represent a significant investment and that every effort is being made to heighten public awareness of the dangers associated with radon gas.