Dáil Éireann - Volume 555 - 10 October, 2002
Written Answers. - Radon Gas Levels.
Mr. Sherlock Mr. Sherlock
29. Mr. Sherlock asked the Minister for the Environment and Local Government if his attention has been drawn to the recent report from the Radiological Protection Institute showing that over 91,000 homes have excessive levels of radon gas; the steps he is taking to deal with this potentially serious situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17359/02]
Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Cullen)
Minister for the Environment and Local Government (Mr. Cullen): I am aware of the report published in July this year by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, RPII, which represents the results of a national survey of indoor radon concentration levels in domestic dwellings carried out by the institute between 1992 and 1999.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in variable amounts in rocks and soil. When it surfaces in the open air, it is quickly diluted. However, where it enters an enclosed space, such as a house, it can reach unacceptably high concentration levels. There is evidence to suggest that long-term exposure to high levels of radon can be a contributory factor in increasing the risk of lung cancer. The RPII's survey involved measuring radon concentrations in over 11,000 houses nationwide. The survey was geographically based, using the 10km grid squares of the Irish national grid as the unit area.
The results of the survey were used by the RPII to predict the percentage of houses in each grid square with radon in excess of 200 becquerels per cubic metre of air. In 1990, the Government on the advice of the then Nuclear Energy Board, adopted an annual radon concentration of 200 becquerels per cubic metre as the national reference level above which remedial action to reduce indoor radon concentration level in domestic dwellings should be considered by the householder. This advice is consistent with EU and internationally accepted guidelines. Based on the results of the survey, the RPII estimated that just over 91,000 houses nationwide or some 7% of the national housing stock have indoor radon levels in excess of the national reference level. The RPII also used the results of the survey to designate as “high radon areas” areas where the predicted percentage of dwellings with radon levels above the national reference level is 10% or more.
 Over the years, the Government has committed significant resources to assessing the extent of the radon problem throughout the country and in highlighting public awareness of radon. The Government and the institute have actively encouraged householders in those areas designated as high radon areas to have their homes measured for radon levels if they have not done so already. In February 2002, my Department published a booklet, Radon in Existing Buildings – Corrective Options, advising designers, builders and home owners on remediation options for reducing radon in existing houses to, or below, the national reference level. This replaced an earlier booklet on this subject. In June 1997, upgraded building regulations were introduced requiring that all new houses commencing construction on or after 1 July 1998 should incorporate radon protection measures. The extent of the measures needed depends on whether the house is located in a high radon area.
The Government has approved in principle the introduction of a radon remediation grant scheme to assist householders to carry out radon remediation work on their homes. The further development of an implementation process for such a scheme and related issues are under consideration between my Department and the Department of Finance.
Dáil Éireann 555 Written Answers. Radon Gas Levels.