What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It is formed in the ground from the decay of uranium, which is present in small quantities in all rocks and soils.
It is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas and because it is a gas, radon can travel easily through the ground in to the atmosphere. When radon surfaces in the open air outside buildings, it is quickly diluted to harmless concentrations, BUT when it enters an enclosed space, such as a building, it can sometimes build up to unacceptably hazardous high concentration levels.
How and why Radon enters a building
Radon can enter a building from the ground through small cracks in floors, walls and service entry points etc. Radon is drawn in to a building from the ground because of the difference in air pressure between the warmer internal air within a building and the external air. The warm indoor air is less dense than the outdoor air.
The radioactive Radon gas accumulated within the building will decay further to produce tiny radioactive particles. When these particles are inhaled they are deposited in your airways and on your lung tissue. This radiation dose can result in lung cancer. The risk of getting lung cancer from Radon depends on the levels of radon and how long you have been exposed to it.
In the region of 200 deaths per year are linked to Radon gas in Ireland, with the risk of developing lung cancer for smokers and ex-smokers being 25 times greater than with lifelong non-smokers.
Radon is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (a part of the World Health Organisation (WHO)) as a Group 1 carcinogen as is asbestos and tobacco smoke. In Ireland and Worldwide, Radon gas is the next biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking.
Expectable levels of Radon
Radon is measured in Becquerel’s per cubic metre (Bq/m3).In 1990 the Government set a National Reference level of 200(Bq/m3) for Home and 400(Bq/m3) for the Workplace. It is advised that if the readings for Radon gas are above these levels following the carrying out of Radon Testing you should consider remedial actions to reduce them(Radon Mitigation). Radon Testing.ie supply the special Radon detectors which are use to measure Radon in your Home or Workplace.
All Buildings should be tested
The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland advocate that all buildings, both old and new are tested for Radon. Some parts of the Country have been designated as High Radon Areas; The Country has been divided into a grid of squares, 10 kilometres X 10 Kilometres and is shown on a map produced by the RPII (See map) The percentage of Houses within each grid square that is predicted to have Radon reading above the National Reference Level of 200(Bq/m3) is shown by colour code, the darker the grid square the higher the percentage of Houses within that square have high Radon levels. A grid square with 10% or more Houses predicted to have Radon reading above the National Reference Level is considered to be in a High Radon Area, but even if you do not live in one of these areas you home may still have a high level of Radon.
Radon levels can differ a lot between buildings, so even if your neighbours have measured for Radon in their homes and the readings were below the National Reference Level, you should also have your home tested. It is the only way to find out if the Radon levels are safe in your Home or Workplace.