Written Answers. - Radon Gas Levels.

Jimmy Deenihan

Ceist:

342 Mr. Deenihan asked the Minister for the Environment Heritage and Local Government his views on the fact that 4,000 employees in County Kerry may be unknowingly exposed to elevated levels of radon gas in their workplaces according to a recent Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19284/03]

The exposure of workers in Ireland to radon gas in the workplace is subject to regulatory control set out in the Radiological Protection Act 1991 (Ionising Radiation) Order 2000. This order implements in Ireland the 1996 EU Basic Safety Standards Directive laying down standards for the protection of workers and the general public from exposure to ionising radiation. The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland is responsible for the enforcement of this order in Ireland.

The above mentioned order specifies a concentration for radon gas in workplaces of 400 becquerels per cubic metre – Bq/m3 – averaged over a minimum period of three months. Where workplaces are found to have concentrations greater than this value, employers must evaluate whether remedial action to reduce the radon concentration to less than 400 Bq/m3 is justified. Under the order, the institute has the authority to direct employers to carry out radon measurements. Failure to comply with any such direction is an offence and can lead to prosecution.

In 2001, the institute, on foot of the order, initiated a programme to direct employers responsible for aboveground workplaces in high radon areas to measure radon concentration levels. I understand that the institute has issued some 1,800 such directions to employers in Tralee, County Kerry and that, to date, approximately 200 of these employers have carried out radon measurements in their workplaces. Of these 200 workplaces, approximately 30 had radon concentrations greater than the reference level of 400 Bq/m3 specified in the order. These employers have been advised to carry out assessments by the institute to determine if remedial action in respect of their workplaces is justified.