Wednesday, 11 July 2007
I live on the east coast of Inishowen. A neighbour told me that they are testing their house for Radon. What is this? Thank you N.M by e-mail
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, which originates from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. It is colourless, odourless and tasteless and can only be measured using special equipment. 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 or other building with poor ventilation, it can sometimes accumulate to unacceptably high concentrations.
Radon decays to form tiny radioactive particles, some of which remain suspended in the air. When inhaled into the lungs these particles give a radiation dose, which may damage cells in the lungs.
Since July 1998, every new house is required to incorporate some degree of radon preventive measures at the time of construction in accordance with the revised Building Regulations (and particularly Technical Guidance Document C to the Regulations) published by the Department of the Environment and Local Government.
The degree of protection required is dependent upon whether or not the site is located within a High Radon Area. Looking at the map of Inishowen on the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) website, we can see that the highest concentrations around the peninsula are in the Moville to Greencastle area. Although the levels are highest here this isn’t an indication that your house is affected. Throughout Ireland there have only been about 2000 cases of high Radon levels in houses so the odds are in your favour.
Experience has shown that radon levels may vary significantly from one building to the next and that the radon level in a house cannot be reliably taken from measurements in other houses in the neighbourhood. Consequently, the Institute recommends that all householders have a radon measurement made to determine the radon level in their home. Where high radon levels are found, householders are advised to consider having remedial work carried out to reduce the radon level.
The radon level in a house can be measured simply and inexpensively. It is usually carried out by placing two small testing devices (detectors), in the house for a period of three months. At the end of this period the detectors are returned to the testing laboratory for processing. This procedure can be carried out entirely by post and there is no need for anyone to visit the house. A three month measurement period is recommended because radon levels in a house can vary considerably from day to day due to changes in the weather conditions, ventilation, building usage, etc. It is generally considered that measurement over a shorter period than this does not give an accurate representation of the exposure to radon in the home. Have a look at the Radon website for more information. www.rpii.ie/radon
The Institute provides a radon measurement service to householders at a price of €45. More information on radon, including an application form for a measurement, can be obtained by contacting the Institute on FREEPHONE RADON 1800 300 600 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, giving your name and address.
There are preventative steps you can take if you want to be on the safe side.
Seal all the gaps in your floors.
Improve indoor ventilation.
As always good old fresh air comes to the rescue!
Put in natural underfloor ventilation.
Lastly you could opt for the expensive underground sump. This pumps out the air from under the house into the air. It is an option only if you get tested and find the amounts in the house are at a dangerous level.