Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It is invisible, odourless and tasteless, and can only be detected using special equipment.
Radon comes from the radioactive decay of uranium, which is present in small quantities in all rocks and soils. Because it is a gas, it can move freely through the ground enabling it to enter the atmosphere or seep into buildings.
Radon is a carcinogen, in the same group as tobacco smoke and asbestos. Long-term exposure to high levels of radon can irradiate lung tissue and increase the risk of lung cancer.
The magnitude of the risk depends on the quantity of radon inhaled and the length of exposure. Smokers exposed to high levels of radon are at greater risk from lung cancer than non-smokers. Radon-linked lung cancer accounts for 150-200 deaths each year in Ireland.
There is no current scientific evidence linking radon exposure with other forms of cancer or other respiratory illnesses.
The RPII has conducted a National Radon Survey (NRS) to find out which regions are most at risk from radon. These parts of the country are called High Radon Areas. Although this type of survey is useful as a general guide, the only way to find out if a specific house has a high level of radon is to test it.
A radon measurement is carried out entirely by post. First, the householder is sent two radon detectors. To measure the radon levels, you simply place one of the detectors in an occupied bedroom, and the second detector in the main living area.
We recommend that you leave the detectors in place for a minimum period of three months. This is because radon levels fluctuate with time. A reliable measurement will only be obtained over a three month or greater period.
Yes. A short term test can be useful in giving an indication of the radon levels in a home. For example if work has been carried out to reduce high radon levels in a home, a short term test may be used to give an early indication as to whether the work has been successful. However, a three month test will still be needed to determine if the radon levels are below the national Reference Level. Short term radon measurements of a few days are not recommended as a basis for deciding whether or not you have a radon problem.
Simply send back the radon detectors by post to us, where we will analyse them and inform you of the results. If necessary, we will also advise you as to how to reduce the radon level in your house.
Our test report will include the measurement period, the quantity of radon gas measured at both detectors’ locations, and the seasonally corrected annual average radon concentration for the whole house. It will also include our recommendations if any further action is required.
Radon is measured in becquerels per cubic metre of air (Bq/m3).The becquerel is a unit of radioactivity, and corresponds to one radioactive disintegration per second.
Radon levels vary widely from area to area and even from house to house. Various factors such as the geology, the construction type of the house and the ventilation all influence the amount of radon entering into a building. The average indoor radon level in Irish homes is 89 Bq/m3, but levels up to 550 times higher have been recorded.
No. The detectors are made of harmless materials, and emit no radiation. They do not require any electrical connections. Nor do they make any noise.
Yes. However, once a house becomes occupied, the radon level can change as a result of occupants opening doors and windows etc. So we recommend that measurements are carried out when the house is occupied.
No. Radon levels can vary widely from house to house, even when they are built close to each other on the same type of soil. The only way of knowing the radon level in your home is to have your own house tested.
There is no need to re-measure unless you carry out major refurbishment work to your house. For example fitting new windows or building an extension and other such work that could in theory open up new entry routes for radon or prevent radon escaping from your house.
There is no grant available to cover for the cost of radon remediation. Some radon reduction techniques are more expensive than others and each one will need to be assessed on a case by case basis. However the typical price for retrofitting a radon sump into a standard house is approximately €925 (ranging from €400-€1500). Other, less expensive options are available, for example, improving the ventilation in your home by installing extra wall vents. However, the most suitable method will depend on the radon levels and on the type of building.
A Scheme of Housing Aid for Older People is available to assist older people, generally over 65 years, to have repairs or improvements carried out to their homes. Where a suite of works is being grant aided under this scheme, Local Authorities may also, as part of the package of works, assist with the provision of radon remediation works, where applicable. Contact the Housing Section of your Local Authority for further information. Additional information is also available from Citizen Information website.
Although techniques are available for measuring radon levels in soil, it is very difficult to determine what the level in a new house will be from the results of soil measurements. For this reason, the EPA does not consider site radon measurements to be a reliable means of predicting, before construction, whether a building will have a high radon level. Instead the EPA recommends that the radon levels be measured soon after the house is occupied.
Guidance provided by the EPA specifies that all homes built since 1st July 1998 must be fitted with a standby radon sump which can be activated at a later stage, to reduce high radon concentrations subsequently found. For homes built in High Radon Areas, the installation of a radon barrier as well as a standby radon sump is required.
A High Radon Area is an area in which the RPII has predicted that 10 per cent or more of the buildings are likely to have radon levels above the acceptable level.
The RPII has produced radon maps and statistics for each county. Research has revealed that almost one third of Ireland is affected by high radon levels, with the South East and the West being of particular concern. However, high radon levels can exist in every part of the country.
Increasing the ventilation at the ground floor level may reduce the indoor radon levels and this is effective up to about 400 becquerel per cubic metre (Bq/m3). Other methods of radon reduction may be required for radon levels above this value.
The distribution of radon is largely determined by the geology. Certain types of rock and deposits – including some granites, limestone and shales – tend to be associated with high radon emissions, for various and different reasons.
No. Radon is present in varying amounts in all types of houses, new or old, detached, semi-detached or terraced. You cannot make any confident prediction of your radon levels based upon the location, construction or age of your house. The RPII recommends that all householders, especially those living in High Radon Areas, should test for radon.
No. Even if the radon barrier has been installed, it could have been damaged during the construction of the house. A single gap or hole in the barrier can make it ineffective. The only way of knowing is by testing your home for radon.
No. If a radon sump is required, it will take approximately a day to install and all the excavation work is normally done from outside the house, with no disruption to the household. Installing a sump simply means removing the equivalent of a bucket full of soil or hard core from underneath the house and attaching a fan onto the pipe work which will link the sump itself to the outside.
There is no conclusive scientific evidence that children are at greater risk from radon than adults.
Radon comes from the ground and gets into buildings mainly through cracks in floors or gaps around pipes or cables. As the pressure inside a building is slightly lower than the pressure outdoors, radon will be drawn from the ground into the building. This phenomenon is known as pressure-driven flow.
All workplaces can be at risk from radon. Workplaces at higher risk tend to be those located in High Radon Areas. Underground workplaces such as mines and show caves are also at higher risk of increased radon levels, wherever their location might be.
Radon which is dispersed into the open air is generally diluted to harmless concentrations. If you work in outdoor construction, fishing, agriculture, transport, or in any other non-enclosed workplace, you are unlikely to be affected by radon.
Because radon enters a building from the ground, the worst affected workspaces are likely to be at basement and ground floor levels, with a diminishing concentration the higher you ascend. Radon testing is normally conducted as near to the ground level as possible. If radon concentrations at ground floor level are within acceptable limits, upper floors of the same building should also be safe.
If you are an employer, you should have the radon levels measured in your workplace by an approved measurement workplace. If you are a worker, you should raise your concerns with your employer and/or trade union.
Harmful radon concentrations can be reduced to safe levels by carrying out remedial work on the affected building. This might include measures such as improving the ventilation or installing an extraction system (radon sumps).
The RPII recommends remediating all workplaces which have a radon measurement above the national Reference Level of 300 Bq/m3. All domestic properties need to be remediated if above the national Reference Level of 200 Bq/m3.