EPA warning on high radon cancer risk

A shocking one in six homes in Mayo have unsafe levels of radon, making the county one of the worst blackspots in the country for the deadly gas linked to 250 lung cancer cases each year.

The Environmental Protection Agency is this Monday to launch a comprehensive campaign to raise awareness about the danger posed to householders in affected areas.

All homes in Mayo are to receive an information pack about the effects of radon in the home, how to apply for a radon test, and advice on how to solve the problem, if found.

The EPA has deemed many parts of the county high radon areas, meaning more than 10 per cent of homes tested are known to have “unacceptable levels” of the gas.

The agency is now urging householders across the county to have their homes tested “as a matter of urgency”.

It said homes with high levels of radon have been consistently found in Ballina, Claremorris, Ballyhaunis, and Crossmolina.

Radon is a colourless, odourless, and tasteless gas that occurs naturally in the decay of certain types of rock and soil.

When radon surfaces in the open air, it is quickly diluted to harmless concentrations. However when it enters an enclosed space, such as a house, it can sometimes accumulate to unacceptably high concentrations.

When inhaled into the lungs, radioactive particles from radon may damage cells and eventually lead to lung cancer.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Stephanie Long, senior scientist in the EPA’s Office of Radiological Protection said her office has, to date, measured 4,400 homes in Mayo for radon and 17 per cent have been found to have unsafe levels of the gas.

“The highest reading we found was 31 times the national recommended level,” she outlined. “Living in a house with this level of radon can deliver a radiation dose equivalent to 21 chest X-rays per day.”

Lung cancer from radon exposure could very well be prevented as reducing high radon concentrations is “relatively straightforward and inexpensive”, added Ms Long.

“Radon is a problem only if ignored,” she outlined. “If there is a high radon level in your house, it is being inhaled by the people living there right now, every day.

“Reducing the radon concentration will immediately reduce the risk from lung cancer. If test results show that a moderate radon level is found, improving indoor ventilation may reduce the level by up to half, the cost of which is low.

“For higher levels, a fan assisted ‘sump’ can be installed which can reduce radon levels by over 90 per cent. The sump can be installed in a day by a contractor with little disruption to the home.”

The EPA is hosting two public meetings in Ballina on Thursday next (November 20 ) in the Twin Trees Hotel at 2.30pm and at 7.30pm. The agency is urging homeowners, GPs, and public representatives to attend the meetings to learn about the importance of getting homes in Mayo tested for radon gas and to find out more about the health effects of the “silent killer”.

For more information, visit www.epa.ie or freephone 1800 300 600.

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