10 January 2012
Thousands of households in a part of
Radon occurs naturally and is present all over the UK. It cannot be seen, smelled or tasted - but each year long term exposure to it is believed to lead to over 1,000 lung cancer deaths across the UK. Cornwall has long been known to have the highest radon levels in the UK.
Letters have this week gone to around 17,000 homes in the former Carrick district, as part of ongoing HPA, Cornwall Council and Primary Care Trust work, offering householders a free radon test.
Over the years the HPA has measured radon in more than 14,000 homes in the district and found it has the fifth highest average radon concentration in England. The HPA scientists have calculated that the average level in those homes was 145 Becquerels per cubic metre of air (Bq m-3) – almost seven times higher than the English average, 21 Bq m-3.
“Families in Cornwall have long been familiar with radon and its health risks” said Neil McColl, head of radon at the HPA’s Centre for Radiation, Chemicals and Environmental Hazards.
“Over the years much has been done to reduce radon exposure in Cornwall. But there is still much to do. In the past year or two we have found many more houses across the county with very high readings.
“This tells us that there are still many more homes in the Carrick area with the potential for very high radon exposure – which is important to consider as radon is the second biggest cause of lung cancer.
“That’s why it is so important for those we contact to take up this offer. Each home has its own radon level that you can only tell by testing.”
A home radon test involves placing two plastic detectors, about the size of a biscuit, in key positions around the home. After three months the detectors are posted to the HPA where they are analysed and the radon level is calculated. If levels are high the HPA will recommend action to reduce levels and will invite householders to local advice sessions.
This latest free test offer follows HPA and Cornwall Council initiatives in neighbouring Caradon and Restormel, where up to 40 per cent of those contacted took up the free test offer.
Lee Wagland, an officer from the Cornwall Council Environmental Health Service, said: “Reducing the risks posed by radon can be easily done. Protecting your homes, if you have high levels, can be a relatively straight forward process and some of this can even be undertaken by anyone with practical DIY experience.”
Felicity Owen, Director of Public Health, at Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Primary Care Trust, said: “High readings of radon in homes across Cornwall are rare – but they do still happen. What that tells us is that there could be many more people across the county who remain at risk from exposure to this gas. That’s why this HPA work is so important – testing really could help protect you and your family from the dangers of radon exposure.
“It’s especially important for smokers, or recent ex-smokers to test for radon. This is because radon presents a significantly bigger heath risk to these groups. If you are a smoker or an ex-smoker and you get the offer of a free radon test, we strongly urge you to take up the offer.”
Last reviewed: 10 January 2012