by Pat Brosnan


Menace of Radon Gas


It was at a Civil Defence Seminar which was held in Killaloe several years ago that some of us first heard of the deadly radon cancer-causing gas. At the time only a small number of people throughout the country were aware of the lethal effects on people who lived in homes in certain areas where the gas was far and away above safety levels. At some recent meetings in Kerry organised by the Radiological Protection Institute it was pointed out that they are extremely concerned about the dangers of radon gas and are urging people to have their homes tested for it. At these meetings it was also stated that recent research has shown that many living in affected areas around the country are to a great extent unaware of the risks they are facing in their homes because of the pressure of radon gas.  A survey of over 500 Kerry homes showed that while 93per cent of those surveyed had heard of the naturally occurring gas, only 22 percent have had their homes tested.  At National level it appears that radon gas is the biggest cause of lung cancer after making and is directly linked to around 200 lung cancer deaths each year.

As already stated it is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that originates from the decay of uranium in rocks and soil, it has no smell, colour or taste. It is without doubt a stealthy and silent killer and can only be detected by the use of special instruments that are specially designed for the purpose. In the open air the gas quickly dilutes into harmless concentrations but when it enters a confined area such as a room or other enclosed building particularly if there is poor or inadequate ventilation this can produce a radiation dose which if prolonged or repeated too often can eventually lead to lung cancer.

While it is known that radon gas can occur in any part of the country there are certain areas where it is particularly prevalent. According to reports the Castleisland district in Kerry seems to be particularly prone to high levels of the radon gas and of course people living in that area have to take steps to make their homes as safe as possible. It is believed rightly or otherwise that in locations where there is a concentration of limestone rock under the subsoil that the risk of radon occurring there is greater.  But no matter where people live in known danger areas or otherwise it is advisable to have houses tested in order to make sure that there is no risk if the result of the test is negative. However, if a concentration of the gas is found in the building the householder can then take the necessary steps to make it safe.

The first thing to do is to order a test which will be delivered by post to the householder. This has two detectors one of these to be placed in the living room and the other in a bedroom for three months. After that these are posted back to the measurement company for analysis. The cost of the home test is €50. Then if the test shows even a moderately high level of radon then improving the indoor ventilation, the cost of which would likely be low, might be the answer.  If however the levels are found to be high it would probably be necessary to have a fan assisted sump installed which can be done in a day for an average cost of €90 per year.  Hopefully there might be no radon problem in Athea, at least we are not living on top of limestone rock if that could be any indication of our immunity from the lethal gas. Certainly this latest publicity in Kerry about the danger from it is not meant to scare people, but just to advise them to take the common sense precaution of having their homes tested for the moderate cost of €50.  It is reasonable to assume that before the more comparatively recent discovery of the dangers of radon gas many people had died from lung cancer without having a clue of what was causing the disease. Now however, with a simple test many homes can be made safer for the residents and this means that the cause in this instance anyway of the disease can be eradicated for once and for all. That surely is a sign of progress.


Household Charge

At the time of writing when we are well past the deadline for the payment of the Household Charge of €100, it looks at this stage as if only about one third of the homeowners have paid it. This is not surprising considering all the threats that have been made by the Government of the penalties that are awaiting those who defaulted and who have not paid up by the end of March deadline.

First of all there was the threat of a fine of €2,500 but soon this was greatly modified because of all the protest meetings and the demonstrations of people power all over the country. Now the whole of this has backfired on the Coalition Government and they are now left with the choice of taking two thirds of the population to the courts, an exercise which would again potentially cost millions of taxpayers money, or of doing the decent thing of scrapping the whole stupid and ill thought of demand and immediately refunding the money to the home owners who have already paid.

This is the only sensible course that the Government and the Minister concerned ought to take at this stage, because it should now be obvious to them that threats and bullying tactics are certainly not going to work. Fianna Fáil too have taken a completely wrong decision in this regard. Instead of opposing the household charge just like the other opposition parties and the independents they went along with the Government parties in supporting the charge and Niall Collins in a recent television interview repeated at least three times that this charge was now the law of the land and more or less insisted that it would have to be paid. The Fianna Fáil proposal that the deadline be postponed until September was nothing other than a cheap diversion because the same problem would still arise then.  Fianna Fáil therefore lost a great opportunity to regain its standing and credibility in supporting Fine Gael and Labour in this senseless measure instead of aligning the Party with the two thirds majority of the population of the State who are obviously opposed to the household charge seeing that they opposed the charge and have ignored the deadline for payment.  It was a chance that the Fianna Fáil Party are unlikely to get again, unless by some miracle they might do a u-turn and oppose the forthcoming austerity treaty, pact or whatever it is, in the forthcoming referendum.


The Mahon Tribunal

What is there to ponder on the findings of the Mahon Tribunal other than it is an absolute disaster particularly for Fianna Fáil as well as the others concerned. Who would ever have thought of party veterans such as Bertie Ahern and Padraig Flynn having to resign from the party or being expelled.

Are such momentous happenings likely to split the party or will it be able to leave all this behind! that surely is the question.