Trinity researchers contribute to Ireland’s new radon map

Posted on: 26 May 2022

Trinity researchers have laid the foundation for Ireland’s new legislative radon map. The original research, published in 2017, in collaboration with Geological Survey Ireland (GSI) showcased a novel methodology to combine geological information with measurements of indoor radon concentrations to produce a stepwise change in how radon is mapped. The research team then collaborated with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to update Ireland’s radon map, officially launched at the National Radon Forum on May 26th. The new radon map is much more detailed and provides new insights into expected indoor radon concentrations around the country.

Trinity researchers contribute to Ireland’s new radon map

Trinity students on fieldwork collecting data for radon mapping in Castleisland, Co Kerry.

Radon is the principal source of radiation exposure, making up more than half of the overall dose received in Ireland. Exposure to radon gas increases the likelihood of developing lung cancer, and results in approximately 300 radon-related lung cancer cases in Ireland each year – and a higher number of fatalities than those associated with road traffic accidents.

Ireland sets the reference level for indoor radon at 300 becquerels per cubic metre for workplaces, and 200 becquerels per cubic metre for homes, meaning if indoor radon concentrations higher than these are found, efforts need to be taken to lower them. The new radon map will apply to both workplaces and domestic residences. Employers with buildings in areas designated as red or amber on the map will need to test their buildings and take action if higher concentrations are found. Any new buildings, whether workplaces or residential, in areas designated red or amber on the map will need to have a radon barrier fitted in the foundations.

The new radon map launched by the EPA presents the expected number of buildings in a given area which are likely to have high radon, indicated as approximately one in five homes (red), one in 10 homes (amber), or one in 20 homes (yellow). Importantly, the map indicates that high indoor radon could potentially be found anywhere in Ireland.

radon map of ireland

Radon map of Ireland produced by Trinity researchers, on which the new EPA map is based. Areas are grouped according to the estimated number of homes expected to exceed the national reference level, indicated as approximately one in five homes (red), one in 10 homes (amber), or one in 20 homes (yellow).

Quentin Crowley, Associate Professor in Geology from the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity College Dublin, said:

 Ireland’s average indoor radon concentration is considerably higher than the global value, resulting in a higher incidence of radon-related lung cancer compared to many other countries. We’re delighted to contribute to the new radon risk map launched by the EPA. This represents an important step in protecting the general public from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.

Javier Elío, who was a post-doctoral researcher in the School of Natural Sciences at Trinity at the time the original research was conducted, and is now employed at Aalborg University, Denmark added:

The new map presented by the EPA drastically increases the resolution of the previous indoor radon map. This has been possible due to the knowledge we gained about the relationship between indoor radon and geology. I’m glad our project played an important role here; it shows the importance of collaboration between organisations to address important societal challenges, and how public research funding is a vital part of this process.

Koen Verbruggen, Director of Geological Survey Ireland, said:

Geoscience knowledge underpins much of our day-to-day lives, including the hidden risk of radon exposure. Geological Survey Ireland is pleased to provide geoscience data, expert collaboration and co-funding for innovative research on radon with research partners Trinity College Dublin. I welcome today’s publication of the new radon risk map, which for the first time brings geology into consideration for assessing and managing radon risk in Ireland.

The original research was financed by the Irish Research Council, through the Enterprise Partnership Scheme Postdoctoral Fellowship 2015 (EPSPD/2015/46) and co-financed by Geological Survey of Ireland. Geological data used in the map were produced and collated by Geological Survey Ireland. Indoor radon used in the map were collated by the Environmental Protection Agency of Ireland.

The original research article on which the new EPA radon risk map is based.

More information on radon.

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