The latest findings from the award-winning Tellus Programme shed new light on radon risk impacting on the West of Ireland as well as unravelling the region’s ancient, geological history.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas with no colour, taste or smell which can increase the risk of developing lung cancer. Outdoors, radon quickly dilutes to harmless concentrations but the gas can accumulate to unacceptably high concentrations within an enclosed space, including a house, if not detected.
The new geophysical data is particularly relevant to east Galway, long recognised as a radon hotspot. It reveals extensive areas of fractured limestone, which can be exploited by naturally occurring radon gas leading to large radon accumulations within the overlying soil that can pose a threat to health. Using the data, the Tellus Programme is working alongside the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to further improve understanding of the distribution of radon gas to update maps and guidance for communities, planners/builders and house owners across the region and wider country.
The Tellus data, which was collected last summer (2016) using the latest technology on-board a distinctive low flying airplane, also reveals significant information on the magnetic and electromagnetic properties of the underground rocks, soils and waters of south Mayo and Galway. The additional datasets provide new insights into the ancient and complex rocks of Connemara including faults, folded rock formations and areas of previously undiscovered buried granite. This information is vital for improving the Geological Survey’s maps, which will be used to better understand the physical and chemical properties of the soil, rocks and water of Ireland.
Minister of State for Natural Resources, Sean Kyne, TD, welcomed the data from the Tellus Programme;
“The data released from the Tellus programme goes a long way to help our understanding of the rocks and soils in this area. This data confirms the EPA’s message that parts of Galway are at high risk from radon. Up to two hundred and fifty cases of radon-related lung cancer are diagnosed in Ireland each year. The detailed data about the radon distribution in this area is a significant output from Tellus and will help better identify areas that are naturally more prone to this easily prevented risk. More information on the risks of radon exposure, including advice on how to prevent and reduce radon levels in homes and buildings can be found on the EPA’s website www.radon.ie.”
The Minister also stated;
“Data from these airborne surveys and the ground sampling surveys feed into a wide range of projects that are of value to the local communities, from farmers to home owners. “
As well as enhancing understanding of naturally occurring radioactive elements such as radon, the data from the airborne geophysics and complimentary ground-based geochemistry survey of soils and streams are of use across a wide range of applications including agricultural, mineral prospectively, and environmental management. They will also be used to update the Geological Survey’s national maps of rocks and soils.
Managed by Geological Survey, Ireland and funded by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Tellus Programme aims to have surveyed 50 % of the country by the end of the year. The next phase of airborne surveying will cover north Mayo and western Donegal, with the Tellus airplane set to take off from early March.
The latest information on the survey along with all datasets from previous phases is freely available at www.tellus.ie
Current maps outlining High Radon Areas and guidelines to having your house assessed for radon can be found at www.radon.ie