In­vis­i­ble killer radon linked to 250 cases of lung cancer a year

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - NEWS -

THE deadly build-up of the silent killer gas, radon, in Irish homes is linked to 250 cases of lung cancer ev­ery year.

One non-smok­ing cou­ple from Kerry both lost their lives to lung cancer be­cause of the fa­tal lev­els of the in­vis­i­ble gas in their home.

Over-ex­po­sure to nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring ra­dioac­tive gas is sec­ond only to smok­ing as the lead­ing cause of lung cancer in Ire­land.

RTE’s new flag­ship science show, 10 Things to Know About, in­ves­ti­gates how the in­vis­i­ble, odour­less gas oc­curs nat­u­rally in soil and gen­er­ally dis­si­pates harm­lessly out­doors. How­ever, in some places, it can leak into the house through the foun­da­tions and build, un­seen, to po­ten­tially deadly de­grees.

Se­nior sci­en­tist at the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, Dr David Fen­ton, said the nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring ra­dioac­tive gas can be fa­tal. “Radon gas in homes is linked to 250 lung cancer cases each year, so it is some­thing peo­ple need to be con­cerned about.”

He told how one Kerry cou­ple lost their lives while un­know­ingly liv­ing in their car­cino­genic home which had deadly lev­els of the gas.

“It’s a tragic story be­cause the house­hold­ers un­for­tu­nately died of lung cancer.

“One of the doc­tors treat­ing them felt it was so un­usual for two non-smok­ing peo­ple liv­ing in the same house to have lung cancer, so he said to get the radon lev­els checked. We found this huge level of radon in the house.”

He said their North Kerry house had the high­est lev­els ever mea­sured by the EPA in a home in Ire­land.

“It (had) 49,000 units of radon. Bear­ing in mind a safe level is be­low 200, this house had very, very high lev­els of radon in it.”

The World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion has cat­e­gorised radon as a car­cino­gen, in the same group as as­bestos and to­bacco smoke. The cancer-caus­ing gas has no colour, taste or smell.

He said: “Your senses are blind to it. Ra­dioac­tiv­ity is quite nat­u­ral. It ex­ists in na­ture. You get doses from the sun and from space when you fly in air­craft.

“The radon is com­ing from ra­dioac­tive el­e­ments in the ground called ura­nium and radium. It comes nat­u­rally out of the ground and can build up in peo­ple’s houses to high con­cen­tra­tions.”

Radon lev­els can be checked by buy­ing a test kit for your home. If the lev­els are over 200 units then ac­tion should be taken. Radon lev­els can be cut eas­ily by in­stalling a pump which sucks the gas from under the floor­boards and ex­pels it out­side.

Grand­mother Chris­tine Keaney in Gal­way told how she was shocked to dis­cover a read­ing eight times the ad­vised safe level when she tested her home for the gas on the ad­vice of her son-in-law.

She said: “It was equal to eight chest X-rays per day. I had no idea. It was fright­en­ing.”

On ad­vice from the EPA, she used a sump pump to suck the gas out and ex­pel it out­side. When she re-tested the lev­els, they were back to the safe level. ‘10 Things to Know About’ will be shown on RTE One to­mor­row at 8.30pm

Lynne Kelleher LIFE-SAVER: Radon gas de­tec­tor kits cost from €40

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