Protection from Radon Gas
We will continue on our discussion on building regulations that apply directly to domestic houses and your home. Under requirement C3 of the building regulation 1997 all reasonable precautions must be taken to avoid the dangers of radon gas entering houses.
Radon is a radioactive gas which produces tiny radioactive particles. Radon can enter a building from the ground through small cracks in floors and through gaps around pipes or cables. Radon tends to be sucked from the ground into a building because the indoor air pressure is usually slightly less than outdoors.
This pressure difference occurs because warm indoor air is less dense than outdoor air. When inhaled, these particles are deposited in the airways and on the tissue of the lungs. This results in a radiation dose that can cause lung cancer.
Radon preventative measures must be applied in the construction of new dwellings or long stay residential buildings. There are two levels of protection against radon; a basic or precautionary level which applies to new buildings in all parts of the country and a more advanced level which applies to new buildings in designated high radon areas.
High Radon Areas are areas where it is predicted that more than 10% of the houses that have radon concentrations above the reference level. For all parts of the country, whether in high or low area the building regulations require that new buildings include a potential means of reducing radon levels.
In the case of dwellings of normal construction, this is most commonly achieved by means of a radon sump, as described in the Department of Environment’s publication “Radon in Buildings”.
The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) recommends that, once occupied, all new buildings should be tested for radon within the within the first year and if the radon level is found to be above the reference level then the radon sump, or other means of reducing the radon levels, should be activated.
In high radon areas, the building regulations require that, as well as a sump other additional measures should be taken like a fully sealed low permeability membrane.
There are a number of companies, other than the RPII, who will measure your home or workplace for radon. Typically small detectors are placed in the main living area and main bedroom. The detectors are placed on tables or shelves, between 1 and 2 metres above the ground. The detectors are left there for 3 months after which they are returned for analysis.
Some householders opt to undertake radon remediation on a phased basis. This means that the simplest, least expensive solution, which offers reasonable potential for achieving the desired reduction, is undertaken first. Following this the house is retested and, if the radon concentrations have not been lowered sufficiently, then other measures are installed progressively until the required radon reduction is achieved.
It is important to note that radon levels in workplaces are also regulated, by The Radiological Protection Act, 1991, and The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989. The legal action level for radon varies according to room function. For example production area has a lower requirement than office areas.
Testing for radon is easy and inexpensive. If high levels are found then then it is usually easy to develop a solution and fix. Normally the solutions/ fixes are straightforward, with very little disruption.