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RADON: Prevention is effective - but are we going to settle for a 50% reduction?

21/09/2012

radon barrier safetyA recent report from the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) states that over 340 homes have been found with high levels of cancer-causing radon gas in the first five months of this year. It’s an important reminder of the need for continued effort to address this serious health issue.

It’s been 14 years since our Building Regulations were updated to include radon protection measures and information from the RPII provides a useful insight on how things have improved since their introduction.

Radon concentrations were measured in 338 homes in high radon areas in County Cork. 189 of these were built before the 1998 requirement to fit a radon barrier (1969 – 1998).149 were built after 1998 (1999 – 2007) and should have been fitted with a barrier. These 2 sets of results were used to assess the impact of the requirement to install a radon barrier.

Based on their findings, the RPII concluded that there has been approximately a 50% reduction in indoor radon levels in homes built since 1998.

Build Year 1999-07 1969-98
No. of homes 149 189
No. of homes > 200 (Bq/m3) 19 (13%) 62 (33%)

Radon concentrations in homes in High Radon Areas in County Cork.
Source: Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland
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Radon Preventive Measures

Commenting on the RPII findings, Tim O’Neill of Icopal Necoflex (a leading supplier of radon protection systems) says “…from our experience there appears to be a shortfall when it comes to practical supervision and validation of radon protection systems. When sealing foundations using sheet membranes and tapes, service penetrations and 3-D shapes shouldn’t present such a big problem.

After all, flat roofing contractors have to deal with much the same issues. The key difference, of course, is that the consequences of poor workmanship and materials become evident fairly quickly after a roof has been completed. This, unfortunately, is not currently the case with radon membrane installations.”

RAM Radon Barrier System

PlayClick to see large version of the RAM Radon Barrier system 

To try and address some of the practical challenges, Necoflex has developed a system called RAM (Radon, Air and Moisture Protection) which effectively seals all three critical areas of ground-floors in buildings: - walls, floors and penetrations (service and structural), thereby ensuring the necessary degree of separation between the interior spaces of a building and the underlying soil. Now, for the first time, designers and builders can tailor their foundation sealing requirements to ensure the best possible protection for any given project.”

It has been particularly encouraging to see that our Government is not prepared to settle for a 50% reduction. A National Radon Strategy is now being developed and is aimed at reducing exposure to radon gas in Ireland thereby decreasing the number of cases of lung cancer caused by radon. An Inter Agency Group has been set up to develop the Strategy and an interim draft Strategy is due in November 2012. This will go out for public consultation early next year and the amended draft will be submitted for Government approval later in 2013.

 

 


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