Radon and health

What is radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas.  It is produced in the ground during the radioactive decay of uranium in rocks and soils.

Why is radon important for health?

Outdoors it is doesn't cause a problem but, because it is a gas, radon can seep into buildings from the ground and can sometimes accumulate to very high concentrations in indoor air.

In the air, radon decays quickly to produce radioactive particles that, when inhaled, are deposited in the airways and on lung tissue. This results in a radiation dose in the lung.  Long term exposure to radon has been shown to increase the risk of lung cancer. The risk of radon-related lung cancer is even higher in smokers.

Am I at risk?

Radon is the principal source of radiation exposure in Ireland, representing over 56% of the dose received by the Irish population.  

The average indoor radon concentration in Ireland is 89 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). This is the eighth-highest average concentration in the world. Some of the highest radon concentrations found anywhere in Europe have been found in homes and workplaces in Ireland.  Some areas in Ireland have higher radon levels more frequently than in other areas.

Radon Map

How can I protect myself and my family?

You can protect yourself and your family by:

  • Radon testing - Radon has no colour, taste or smell but it can be measured using a radon detector. While there is no completely safe level of radon, it is recommended that householders should carry out radon remediation work when the radon level is 200 Bq/m3.  The action level for workplaces is higher, at 400 Bq/m3, as people generally spend more time at home than at work. So testing is an important way to protect yourself and your family. 
  • Avoiding tobacco smoke - Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer and causes many other health problems.  When smokers are exposed to high Radon levels in the home, the risk of lung cancer rises dramatically.  The most important protection measure is to stop smoking.

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