Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It originates from the decay of uranium, which is present in small quantities in all rocks and soils. It is colourless, odourless and tasteless and can only be measured using special equipment. Because it is a gas, radon can move freely through the soil enabling it to enter the atmosphere. When radon surfaces in the open air, it is quickly diluted to harmless concentrations, but when it enters an enclosed space, such as a house, it can sometimes accumulate to unacceptably high concentrations.
The World Health Organisation has categorised radon as a carcinogen, in the same group as asbestos and tobacco smoke. In Ireland, approximately 300 cases of lung cancer each year are linked to exposure to radon. Radon contributes over 55% of the radiation dose received by the average person in Ireland. These lung cancer cases are principally associated with exposure to radon in the home, but exposure in the workplace is also a contributor. In the workplace, the employer must protect the health of workers from this identifiable risk.
Radon is only a problem if it is ignored and some simple, inexpensive and straightforward solutions are available to reduce excessive levels both in the workplace and in the home.
The national Reference Level for radon in the home is 200 becquerel per cubic metre (Bq/m3) and 300 becquerel per cubic metre in the workplace. This is the level at which it is recommended that you take action to reduce the level of radon in your home.