Householders may face radon charges

Institute in favour of new system of mandatory tests for radon when properties are sold

Dr Ann McGarry of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland

Dr Ann McGarry of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland

Wed, Nov 6, 2013, 01:31

Homeowners, already buffeted by local property tax and upcoming water charges, may now be facing a new charge for radon testing, it has emerged.

Under a recommendation from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, the Department of Environment is considering a requirement that all properties be tested for radon, as they come up for sale or perhaps even lease.

Radon is a radioactive gas naturally produced from uranium present in small quantities in all rocks and soils.

It cannot be seen, smelled or tasted but it accounts for 56 per cent of the total radiation dose received by the Irish population.

Cancer deaths
Between 150 and 200 lung cancer deaths in Ireland every year can be linked to radon.

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) already offers a test for radon, at a fee. However there is currently no obligation on householders to carry out such a test.

Property owners are already required to have a Building Energy Requirement (BER) certificate when selling or renting their property, and it is understood the radon test would be imposed in a similar fashion.

Addressing the Oireachtas Committee on Environment yesterday, Dr Ann McGarry, chief executive of the institute, told members it was in favour of mandatory testing.

She said testing had been recommended by the institute to the Department of Environment, as part of a national control strategy for radon.

Dr McGarry told members of the committee the department had been interested in the proposal, and was in discussion with relevant bodies “to see how it might be implemented”.

“We would hope it would be seen as a suitable way to address this issue,” she said.

Dr McGarry was responding to questions from Waterford Fine Gael TD Paudie Coffey who said radon was a serious health issue in parts of the country, particularly his constituency in the the southeast.

Few health implications
In contrast to the danger posed by radon, Dr McGarry told the committee Britain’s nuclear power plant building programme contained few health implications for Ireland.

Under its energy sustainability programme, Britain is proposing to build eight new nuclear plants by 2025, five of which are to be located close to the Irish sea on Britain’s west coast. Seven existing plants are due to close by 2023.

Dr McGarry said the RPII had studied the possible impacts for Ireland.

It had determined the most likely effect was “socio-economic costs” as in worst cases, people would have to stay indoors for hours, and controls put in place in relation to consumption of vegetables and animals, such as sheep.