Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that results from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. The gas 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, it can sometimes build up to unacceptably high concentrations. Radon from the ground enters buildings chiefly through cracks in floors or gaps around pipes or cables.
Radon decays to form tiny radioactive particles, some of which stay suspended in the air. When these particles are inhaled into the lungs, they give a radiation dose that may damage cells in the lung.
Radon has been shown to be a cause of cancer, specifically lung cancer; prolonged exposure to elevated levels of radon gas in an enclosed area can be a contributory factor in increasing the risk of lung cancer, particularly where other factors such as cigarette smoking are involved.
Galway City & County is recognised as an area with high levels of Radon Gas in the ground. The EPA states that the greatest health risk from radiation in Ireland is caused by radon. It accounts for 56 per cent of the total radiation dose received by the Irish population. Up to 250 cases of lung cancer in Ireland every year can be linked to radon.
The EPA provides a radon measurement service which is accredited by the Irish National Accreditation Board to ISO 17025 for homes and workplaces.
Radon measurements are legally required in occupied ground-floor and basement areas of indoor workplace premises located in High Radon Areas.
However, it is possible to find workplaces with high radon concentrations in locations not designated as High Radon Areas. Therefore, we urge all employers to adopt a proactive approach to radon in the workplace and carry out a measurement regardless of location.
Only those workplaces or work areas with an occupancy of above 100 hours per year need be measured.
If the radon concentration in each measured area is below the statutory value of 400 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3) no further action is required. The report should be kept on file.