Your Workplace

Radon in the workplace

The greatest health risk from radiation in Ireland is caused by radon, which accounts for 56 per cent of the total radiation dose received by the Irish population. Up to 250 cases of lung cancer in Ireland are linked to radon every year.

What is radon?

  • Radon is a radioactive gas which is naturally produced in the ground from uranium present in small quantities in all rocks and soils
  • You cannot see, smell or taste radon
  • Radon can only be measured with a simple test.

 

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Why is radon a problem?

  • Radon is a radioactive gas which produces tiny radioactive particles. When inhaled, these particles are deposited in the airways and on lung tissue, giving a radiation dose that can cause lung cancer
  • When you are exposed for a long period of time to high levels of radon, you increase your risk of developing lung cancer

 

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How does radon get into the workplace?

  • Radon gas rises through porous layers of soil and rock. When it reaches the open air it disperses into the atmosphere
  • It can also seep into buildings from under the structure through cracks in the floor, wall slab joints, pipe fittings and drains
  • When radon gets into a building and enters an enclosed space, it can accumulate to very high levels
  • Radon levels are generally highest in cellars and basements because these areas are nearest to the source and are often poorly ventilated.
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When is radon a problem in the workplace?

  • The national Reference Level for radon in workplaces is 400 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3) measured over a 3 month period. This Reference Level is specified by law in S.I. No. 125 of 2000. If radon concentrations above 400 Bq/m3 are found, the employer must protect the health of workers, usually by reducing the radon levels present.
  • There are two types of workplaces that are at higher risk of having elevated indoor concentrations: 
    • Workplaces located in High Radon Areas.  Check our radon map to see if your workplace is in a High Radon Area.
    • Underground workplaces such as mines and show caves
  • High radon levels can be found in any part of the country, including those areas not designated as High Radon Areas.  For this reason the RPII recommends that every ground-floor or basement workplace should be tested for radon.

 

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What are the health risks to workers?

  • Your risk of contracting lung cancer from exposure to radon depends on how much radon you have been exposed to and for how long, and whether or not you smoke 
  • Radon is in the same group of carcinogens as asbestos and tobacco smoke
  • Long term exposure to high radon levels increases the risk of lung cancer
  • There is no scientific evidence linking radon to other types of respiratory illnesses or other cancers
  • For more information, on the actions an employer may take if high radon concentrations are found in aboveground workplaces read our guidance note
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How can I tell if my workplace is affected?

  • The only way to confirm the radon level in your workplace is to have a measurement carried out. The RPII provides a list of measurement services .
  • Because it is impossible to predict exactly where high radon levels will be found, it is recommended that every workplace should have a radon test carried out, even those located outside a High Radon Area
  • For an explanation of how workplace surveys should be carried out, see the RPII booklet Planning Radon Surveys in Workplaces – Guidance Notes
  • For workplaces such as caves and mines, the RPII has produced specific guidance Guidance Notes for Underground Workplaces
  • Indoor radon levels vary greatly from one building to another and the measurement from a neighbouring building is no indication of the level of radon in your workplace.

 

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