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Communicating radon risk – Ireland’s experience

22 October 2018

Recorded broadcast →

Presenter: Stephanie Long
Date of broadcast: 22 October 2018, 4 pm CEST
Organized jointly with the European Radon Association

About the webinar

Homes with high radon concentrations can be found anywhere, but are most often associated with particular geology. Such areas include bedrock such as certain granites and shales that contain high concentrations of uranium, and also karstic limestone areas overlaying underground caves and waterways. It is important to outreach to the entire population so that they can make informed decisions about whether to measure for radon. Participants in this webinar will learn from Ireland’s experience in public engagement on radon matters, focusing in particular on those living in identified high risk areas.

In Ireland, almost 10% of the population live in homes that are above the country’s radon reference level of 200 Bq/m3.  

Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began communicating about radon risk in the early 1990s. In 2010, the agency launched a series of focused risk communication campaigns in high radon areas to raise awareness and encourage homeowners to test and reduce radon in their homes as necessary.  

Though surveys indicated a high level of awareness of radon after the campaigns, this awareness did not translate into action. Residents in just 1% of homes targeted carried out a radon test.  Later surveys showed that only one in four of those whose homes test above the reference level for radon will take action to reduce radon in their homes.  

A review of the effectiveness of the campaigns from a health psychology perspective showed that risk communication, even when it follows best international practice, has limited effect on behavior.  

Instead, the reviewers   recommended that testing for and remediating radon be normalized. Strong regulations to protect the public from radon, supported by high quality information about the associated risks,   also were recommended.  The webinar will highlight Ireland’s experiences, the lessons it has learned and its plans for future work.

Learning objectives

The webinar will focus on:

  • How effective risk communication can result in high awareness of and concern about radon without sparking any action.
  • How strong government regulations, supported by effective risk communication, can protect the public from radon.
  • The importance of making testing for and remediating radon a normal, routine occurrence.

About the presenter

Stephanie Long has worked as a senior scientist in the EPA’s Radon Programme of the EPA for 10 years.  She is the Project Manager for Ireland’s National Radon Control Strategy. Her work on radon has focused on raising public awareness, research into the behaviour of radon and policy development.

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