The Government is continuing its programme of free radon measurements with some 52,000 invitations being issued next week to homes in England.
The invitations will be sent to householders living in areas which have a greater than 5% chance of being above the recommended radon action Level. The invitations will be specifically targeted to those householders who have not previously received one, but who live in areas, identified in May 1996 as having a radon problem.
Radon is a cause for concern because exposure over time to the gas increases the risk of developing lung cancer.
'Radon has long been identified as a significant risk to health. It is believed to be the second most important cause of lung cancer after smoking. The Government's advisors, the National Radiological Protection Board estimate that five per cent of the deaths in the UK from lung cancer are caused by radon.
'You can't see radon; you can't smell it; you can't taste it.
'But you can test for radon. If you have high levels in your home, you can take steps to reduce the risk. I urge anyone who receives an invitation to take up the offer. They owe it to their family and themselves. Don't live with the risk.'
Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas, which is a product of the decay of uranium. It is found in small quantities in all rocks and soils and disperses quickly in the open air. However, radon can accumulate in buildings.
The radon tests simply involve placing a small plastic container, about the size of a door knob, in the main living room and another in the bedroom. The containers have a small piece of plastic inside them, which can detect the presence of radon. They are returned after three months to the National Radiological Protection Board, an independent statutory body, which administers the radon measurement programme on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.
To qualify for a free test, householders will have to reply by 21 February 1998.
On 28 July 1997, in response to a Parliamentary Question, Environment
Minister Angela Eagle announced that the Government would complete
the programme of free radon tests for householders with a 5% or above chance of being above the Action Level, started by the previous Government. This programme will ensure that all homes in the most radon-affected areas of England will be offered a free radon test.
Following that announcement, some 127,000 targeted invitations were sent out. Next week's mailshot will complete this programme with another 52,000 targeted invitations.
The National Radiological Protection Board (NRPB) advises the Government on radon in homes. New homes are protected from radon through the requirements of the Building Regulations in high radon
A number of factors determine whether or not radon accumulates in a building, including how a building is constructed and how it is used.
The levels of radon found can vary markedly, even between adjacent homes.
Radon is believed to be the second most important cause of lung cancer after smoking. The NRPB estimates that five per cent of lung cancer deaths in the UK are attributable to radon. The UK Action Level is 200 Becquerels per cubic metre of air. This level equates to the European Commission's recommendation for new homes. The Becquerel, named after the scientist who discovered radioactivity, is the number of atoms that decay per second.
AREAS TO BE TARGETED WITH FREE INVITATIONS IN JANUARY 1998
(categorised by local authority)
South Lakeland DC 3,348
West Dorset DC 95
Cotswold DC 1,098
Forest of Dean DC 242
Stroud DC 118
Tewkesbury BC 52
East Hampshire DC 407
Winchester DC 275
HEREFORD & WORCESTER
Leominster DC 1,506
Lancaster CC 2,684
Berwick-upon-Tweed BC 987
Craven DC 1,508
Richmondshire DC 1,200
Cherwell DC 9,704
West Oxfordshire DC 221
North Wiltshire DC 1,173
Salisbury DC 1,049
West Wiltshire DC 177
Bath and North East Somerset 26,205
City of Bristol 12
South Gloucestershire 302