8 July 2010
A new initiative to reduce concentrations of radon in UK homes has been launched by the Health Protection Agency.
Radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, is the biggest source of human exposure to ionising radiation in the UK and is responsible for an estimated 1,100 lung cancer deaths a year.
After reviewing the latest scientific evidence, as well as the costs and benefits of radon reduction measures, the HPA is retaining its Action Level of 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq m-3) – but introducing a new Target Level of 100 Bq m-3.
The Target Level has been introduced because research published since 1990 has given scientists a greater understanding of the risks to health of exposure to radon below 200 Bq m-3 and because HPA now has considerably more experience of the effectiveness of remediation measures. Although low level exposures can still lead to lung cancer, the risks at these levels are low and can be reduced further by simple mitigation measures designed to increase underfloor ventilation.
Dr John Cooper, director of the HPA’s Centre for Radiation, Chemicals and Environmental Hazards, said: “We are retaining the Action Level of 200 Bq m-3 so that our efforts can be firmly focussed on those at greatest risk. However the new Target Level of 100 Bq m-3 will enable us to ensure people are aware that even below 200 Bq m-3 there are still risks to health and simple remediation measures can be taken to reduce these.
“The HPA recommends that people in homes where radon levels have been recorded between the two figures should think carefully about preventative action to protect their health.
“Together with our previous recommendations to Government on the inclusion of basic radon protective measures in all new buildings, the new advice is an appropriate practical response based on good scientific evidence of the risks of lung cancer from radon exposure.”
The HPA recommends that Target and Action Levels should be applied to other premises where occupancy by members of the public exceeds 2,000 hours per year and to all schools.
Radon measurement programmes are organised on the basis of predictions of the probability that homes and other buildings in different parts of the country will have radon concentrations exceeding the Action Level.
Householders can find out the likelihood that their home is above the Action Level at www.ukradon.org. The HPA report: HPA Advice on the Limitation of Human Exposure to Radon, can be viewed here www.hpa.org.uk/Publications/Radiation/DocumentsOfTheHPA/.
To view indicative radon maps for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, go to www.ukradon.org/article.php?key=indicativemap.
For further information please contact the CRCE Press Office on 01235 822737/876/745.
Notes to editors
Last reviewed: 7 July 2010