What is radon What is the scale of the problem How can we fix the problem A national strategy
What is radon Radon is a naturally occurring carcinogenic gas. Relased from rocks and soils and can accumulate in homes and other buildings. It is the second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking and accounts for 10 to 15% of lung cancer deaths in Ireland.
What is Radon Direct evidence for link between radon and lung cancer in homes - IARC Group 1 carcinogen. Effective and relatively inexpensive measures are available to prevent the problem in new houses and to remedial existing houses (once the problem has been identified).
What is the scale of the problem The National Radon Survey (NRS), 1992 to 1999, identified the scale of the problem in Irish Homes. 7% of houses (approx 91,000 houses) are predicted to be above Reference Level Further surveys/ measurements in schools and workplaces present a similar picture.
National Radon Survey 11,319 homes between Measured. For each 10 km grid square the percentage of houses above 200Bq/m 3 is predicted. Squares with > 10% are designated High Radon Areas
Mean radon concentrations OECD countries How do levels compare internationally
How do we reduce Radon levels Prevent the problem in new buildings through building controls Persuade home owners and employers to test and, where necessary, fix the problem in existing homes and workplaces Legal requirements concerning exposure to radon in workplaces
Home Workplace Where does exposure to Radon gas occur Per Caput Exposure to radon
Identifying houses with a radon problem NRS tells us the probability of a house in a certain area having a radon problem Only possible to tell if an individual house has a problem is to measure it – adjacent houses may have very different radon levels Key challenge is to persuade individuals to measure
Remediation – Housing 79% of housing units are privately occupied (2006 Census) Addressing radon in this sector is dependent on increasing public awareness and knowledge of radon. Other possible measures include: disclosure during conveyancing, inclusion of radon in schemes such as BER and incentives. Persuading individuals to measure remains a slow and difficult task
Remediation – Housing Local authorities have recognised the potential for liability for damage to health of tenants – many local authorities are now addressing radon in social housing
Remediation – Workplaces Legal obligations on employers to provide a safe work environment (H&S Regulations, S.I. 125 of 2000) Useful to address radon in the context of other H&S issues (HSA raise radon as an issue in workplace inspections) Public education (persuasion) is also crucial in the sector.
Prevention Radon prevention has been included in the Irish Building Regulations since 1998. These measures are inexpensive and have negligible impact on building costs. There is potential to improve effectiveness of preventative measures through better monitoring and research.
Prevention vs Remediation Prevention –Unit cost low and can be incorporated into building costs –Can be enforced through building controls –Addresses only new houses Remediation –Necessary to identify individual houses –Unit cost more expensive than prevention –Homeowners must bear the cost –Potentially possible to address all houses
A National Radon Strategy Radon strategy must address both prevention and remediation and is likely to incorporate multiple elements Cost effective mix of solutions (must deliver the maximum impact within budgetary constraints) Joined up approach involving: relevant public bodies, professional bodies, service providers, etc There are EU Regulations coming down the track which will require Ireland to have a radon strategy
Strategic Coordination Public education Building Controls Monitoring/ evaluation/ surveys Health and Safety Regulation Action levels National Strategy
Some points to take away Radon is an important public health issue. There are a range of control measures to address both existing and new buildings. Radon is best addressed through a joined up national strategy driven by central Government and involving all of the many stakeholders. Persuading individuals to measure remains an enormous challenge.