Wednesday, 3 May 2006

Ceisteanna (480)

Eoin Ryan

Ceist:

541 Mr. Eoin Ryan asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the extent to which radon gas is being monitored; and the locations which are at highest risk. [16123/06]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

During the years 1992 to 1999, the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) carried out a nationwide survey of radon gas in domestic dwellings. The survey involved the measurement of radon for a twelve month period in a random selection of homes in each 10 km x 10 km grid square throughout the country. The results of the survey were used to predict the percentage of houses in each grid square with radon concentrations in excess of 200 Becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3), which is the National Reference Level in respect of houses. Grid squares where this percentage is greater than 10% are designated as High Radon Areas and such grid squares exist in every county. The RPII's website —www.rpii.ie — contains a comprehensive map which shows the location of High Radon Areas throughout the country. County radon maps and survey results can be viewed also on that web-site by clicking on the county by name.

Epidemiological studies provide evidence that long-term exposure to high levels of radon increases the risk of lung cancer and that this risk is higher for smokers than non-smokers. The RPII estimates that about 200 lung cancer deaths annually in this country are linked to radon. In September last year, the RPII and the National Cancer Registry of Ireland issued a joint Press Release, which pointed out that on the basis of a recent Europe-wide survey of the health risks of radon, smokers are 25 times more likely than non-smokers to develop lung cancer due to radon. Furthermore, the Press Release stated that the vast majority of the estimated 200 annual radon-related lung cancer deaths occurred among those who smoked.

My Department, principally through the RPII, has allocated significant resources to assessing and highlighting the problems associated with high levels of radon in households throughout Ireland and to increasing public awareness of the risks. As part of its campaign to further enhance public awareness of radon, the RPII, in late 2004, began a nationwide series of public information seminars on radon, targeted at high radon areas. So far, seminars have been held in Sligo, Kilkenny, Waterford, Ballina, Tralee and Clonmel and the RPII have plans to visit, Ennis, Carlow and Galway later this year. These seminars have received widespread media coverage and have generated a large number of enquiries from the public.

Recent research commissioned by the RPII has found that 75% of the general population are aware of radon. In addition, over the past two years, there has been a significant increase in the number of radon measurements undertaken by householders compared with previous years. Both my Department and the RPII have consistently urged householders to measure their homes for radon levels, particularly if they live in an area that is considered to have high radon concentrations. The testing is inexpensive (approximately €50), straightforward and non-invasive.

If the household is found to have high radon levels, remediation work may be recommended. Technical guidance on radon remediation techniques is available in a booklet issued by my Department called Radon in Buildings — Corrective Options which is available on my Department's website atwww.environ.ie. The RPII has also issued guidance entitled Understanding Radon Remediation — A Householders’ Guide. This is available on the RPII website, as is a list of companies who can provide a radon remediation service and can offer specific advice and recommendations.