21 July 2011
Digital mapping techniques have enabled the Health Protection Agency and British Geological Survey to produce a new radon map of Scotland.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which seeps up from the ground and is the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK.
Two years ago the HPA produced a radon map of Scotland, charting areas most likely to be affected by the gas, based on measurements in homes. Since then Agency staff have worked closely with the British Geological Survey to produce a more accurate map.
The new technique has led HPA scientists to estimate that between 2,000 and 5,000 Scottish homes could have radon concentrations above the radon action level where work would be recommended to protect occupants - a rise on the numbers predicted in the 2009 map.
Dr John Cooper, Director of the HPA Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards, said: "This new map will give Scottish householders the very best available information to determine if they should test their home for radon.
"We know that radon exposure leads to more than 1,000 lung cancer deaths in the UK each year. However there are practical measures that can be taken to substantially cut the level of radon exposure. We hope this map will be useful to people in helping them determine whether they need to take action to reduce the risk of exposure in their homes."
Professor John Ludden, Executive Director of the British Geological Survey said, "Radon levels vary from place to place. The type of rocks and soils beneath our homes is the biggest factor controlling this variation. Therefore, to make the best possible assessment of radon levels, scientists in the two organisations have developed this detailed mapping approach. Radon is not a problem unique to Scotland, or the rest of the UK; many countries are affected to some degree by radon. This new radon map for Scotland benefits from the latest geological knowledge and many thousands of measurements of radon in homes."
The Scottish radon map shows that the main areas with elevated radon continue to be parts of Aberdeenshire, Highland and Orkney.
The new map shows the increased potential for radon exposure in some wider rural areas than were seen in the 2009 map. The new map also identifies a number of pockets of elevated radon potential in the central belt of Scotland.
Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said: "Every year between 100 to 200 Scots die from lung cancer which is linked to their exposure to radon. But this is a situation we can do something about - and people taking the time to carefully look at this new map is a good first step.
"The map identifies the areas of Scotland most affected by radon. We are working with the Health Protection Agency to offer radon tests to householders in these areas. We are encouraging all householders who receive the offer to get their home tested and, where necessary, to reduce high radon levels.
"We are also amending building regulations guidance to ensure that all new buildings and new extensions proposed within the identified risk areas are constructed with the required radon protection measures. We also encourage all local authorities and NHS boards to ensure that any public buildings - such as schools or hospitals - in radon affected areas are properly tested and to take the appropriate action as required."
Last reviewed: 21 July 2011