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The second largest city in Ireland, Cork, shows some of the highest radon levels in the country

Half a million people in Ireland – exposed to radon in their homes

Half a million people in Ireland – exposed to radon in their homes

The Irish Environment Protection Agency released an updated map of affected regions in the country

On Wednesday, the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published an updated radon map of the country, providing a more accurate depiction of the areas where people are more at risk of exposure to the radioactive material.

According to the new data, around half a million people could be exposed to the substance in their homes or at work. Overexposure to radon can cause lung cancer and estimates suggest that it accounts for 350 lung cancer cases every year in Ireland.

Radon –what does it do?

Radon is an odourless, colourless and tasteless radioactive gas that is released from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. The gas is a particular concern for homes, as it tends to seep in from cracks and gaps and accumulate in the air and in certain surfaces, similar to asbestos.

At the same time, the national distribution of radon intensive areas is quite uneven. It depends on factors like geology – certain types of rocks and deposits - including some granites, limestone and shales - tend to be associated with high radon emissions. Experts say that Cork and Waterford and the western seaboard account for the highest levels in the country.

map of Ireland radon A map of radon regions in Ireland, Source: Environment Protection Agency

Outdoors, radon quickly dilutes and is harmless, however, in enclosed spaces, it can accumulate with health-damaging effects, especially when breathed in. According to Irish authorities, exposure to radon accounts for approximately 350 cases of lung cancer every year.

However, dealing with the substance at home or in an office is quite easy. Irish buildings built after 1998 have a mandatory radon sump – a pipe which leads to the open air. If an enclosed space does exhibit high radon counts, the sump can be activated with a fan, increasing ventilation.

The anti-radon initiative

Irish authorities have long been aware of their radioactive problem. This is why they created the National Radon Control Strategy, a cross-institution initiative, led by the Department of Environment and Climate. Their main goal is to reduce the number of radon-related lung cancer cases in Ireland.

This is why in 2002, they developed the first radon map of Ireland. Now, with the help of Trinity College, the Geological Survey of Ireland and the Economic and Social Research Institute, along with the EPA, they have updated the map and provided additional detail.

According to the new map, an astounding 170,000 homes in the country are at risk for radon exposure. This equates to roughly half a million people. Luckily, the EPA now offers digital services, so people can see if their home or workplace is affected, by using their eircode.

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