Test calls soar over Galway’s high radon levels

The numbers of calls received by radon detection experts has soared since news broke before the weekend that Galway has significantly high levels of cancer-causing radon, with 98 homes found to be above the acceptable level.

Figures released by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII ) last Friday found that nationally more than 600 homes from across the country have been found to have high levels of the gas. This is the highest number identified in any period since the national radon measurement programme began.

In Galway, a total of 398 homes were measured by the RPII for radon gas between January 1 and August 30, 2010. Of these, 98 were above the acceptable level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3 )

Fifteen homes had more than four times the accceptable level with readings in excess of 800 Bq/m3 and were found in Athenry (three ), Ballinasloe, Castlegar, Claregalway (three ), Galway city (three ), Mountbellew, Oranmore, Salthill, and Tuam. The highest levels in the county was found in Castlegar with 1,900 Bq/m3. The radiation dose to the occupants of the home with the highest levels were equivalent to receiving approximately six chest x-rays per day. Radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and is linked to up to 200 lung cancer deaths each year in Ireland. The remaing 83 results had readings of between 200 and 800 Bq/m3 and were found throughout the county.

Commenting on the findings, senior scientist at the RPII, David Fenton, said: The high levels are a cause for concern, but the increase in the numbers of homes being measured is welcome. Radon causes lung cancer and for those with homes which have high levels, measuring is the first step towards making your home safer.”

Speaking to the Advertiser, Fergul Costello, who runs a radon testing business in Oranmore, said since last weekend, when news spread about the high levels, calls into the office and sales from concerned members of the public has increased by more than 50. However, he warned that it should not take reports in the media to get home owners testing, as it is something they must do to protect their health and also landlords and employers have a duty to protect their workers.

“There are a lot of areas in Galway which have high levels. In the last few months I have seen levels of 1,250 Bq/m3 in Kingston, 900 Bq/m3 in Oranmore, and 750 Bq/m3 in Claregalway. The limit is 200 Bq/m3. People hear about this on the news, they say they have to get a test done, but then they forget about it. It’s like a gas, so it’s not in your face, but the problem is long term because you’re breathing it in. If you’re smoking and there is radon in the house there is 25 times more risk. Galway is one of the highest, one in five homes. Houses built after 1998 have radon barriers built in, or should have, but the RPII still recommend getting tests done as 14 per cent of them have proven not to have been working. Know your health risk, it’s only €50 for the detectors. If you do the test then you know where you stand,” said Mr Costello.

There are currently 10 companies in the country, which are accredited by the RPII, which offer the sale of radon detectors. According to Mr Costello it is recommended for people to purchase two detectors, one for the living room and one for the bedroom, and these will be kept there for three months. To find out more information about the services provided by Fergul Costello then log onto www.radontesting.ie

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