Ventilation: Scotland and Radon

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England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland Radon update…

Thousands of homes at risk from ‘cancer gas’

24 April 2009
By JOHN ROSS

THOUSANDS of Scottish homes are sitting on potentially harmful levels of a cancer-causing natural gas.

The highest numbers of homes possibly affected by radon are in Aberdeenshire, the Highlands, Orkney and the Borders.

The Scottish Government announced yesterday that homes at risk are to be offered free testing to assess the danger.

Radon is the second-biggest cause of lung cancer, responsible for 1,000-2,000 deaths in the UK annually, compared with about 30,000 deaths from smoking.

A map showing the areas with the highest levels of radon has now been published to help homeowners identify whether they need to take any action.

The map, produced for the Scottish Government by the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA), shows affected areas, where at least one house in 100 can be expected to exceed the HPA’s Action Level.

The HPA advises that any house showing a radon build-up above this level should have work carried out to remedy the problem.

Anyone in an area where their house has a 5 per cent chance or more of being above the action level will be entitled to a free test, to be carried out by the HPA.

In Scotland as a whole, 62,000 homes are located in radon-affected areas, and it is estimated that between 1,000 and 4,000 of these will have concentrations above the action level.

The cabinet secretary for health and wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon, said yesterday: “The build-up of radon in houses can put health at serious risk and is estimated to cause between 100 and 200 lung cancer deaths in Scotland every year.”

She said the testing programme would start this summer and continue until 2011.

Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government was amending building regulations guidance to ensure that all new buildings proposed within risk areas had the required radon protection measures. Public buildings in affected areas, including schools and hospitals, would also be tested and action taken if required.

In 1993, two radon-affected areas were identified in Scotland: Kincardine and Deeside/Gordon and around Helmsdale in Sutherland.

The new maps follow a more detailed survey. It also found radon levels higher than average in the Great Glen at Invergarry and between Tomatin and Aviemore in the Highlands; in Deeside south of Ballater and Banchory; much of mainland Orkney; and near Langholm and between Jedburgh and the Border.

Highland Council has promised to help the affected residents.

John Laing, the chairman of the council’s transport, environmental and community works committee, said: “Protecting public health is one of the council’s main roles. Having this information will enable us to take appropriate measures to protect and advise those people living and working in the affected areas.”

Alistair Thomson, the head of environmental health and trading standards, said there was no immediate concern.

He said: “There is no acute risk from radon. Any risk is due to long-term exposure.

“We will assist with the proposed testing regime, which should alleviate concerns in many cases.”

Dr Ken Oates, consultant in public health medicine at NHS Highland, said reducing high levels of radon in homes was worth doing to reduce cancer risks.

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DANGER BELOW

RADON occurs in all rocks and most soils and, while quickly diluted if it escapes into the air, it can get trapped inside buildings and prolonged exposure can increase health risks.

Testing for radon involves placing two small detectors in a house for three months. Where there is a high level of the gas, increasing the ventilation under a suspended floor, or sucking out the radon from under a solid floor using a small fan can help. This can cost ?500-?2,000, but help may be available from councils.

COMMENT:
Charles Linskaill,
Edinburgh 24/04/2009 01:43:20

Yes we know, I saw this story on the News, or some programme on TV yesterday, but it is not News, it goes back many moons ago, about the dangers of “Radon Gas”.

They said on the Television News/Programme, that is very cheap for you to get a test done in your home for Radon Gas, so that’s not so bad!

I live in a ‘High-Rise’ so I do not think it will affect me, 6-story’s-up, most of my life I have lived at ground-level, maybe this is why some of you think me quite mad, I was affected by the “Radon Gas”. 🙂

Being serious, if I can!, if when first married with small tot’s, I would be very worried about this Gas, and would most likely move to somewhere else to escape it, PDQ, not only for my health, but for my Children’s Health.

Shame about our old ‘Boy Wonder’ though!

He has been Highly Affected, by the Radon’s!

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Response:
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What the article doesn’t mention of course is that smoking bans have probably increased the concentrations of radon in many public places such as pubs.?? In the past these places would have had fairly high rates of air exchange in order to get rid of the smoke hanging in the air and as a consequence the radon would get swished out and away from delicate lungs. Once the smoking bans come in however the landlord/owner of the premises can save money on heating and cooling by lowering the ventilation rate and, without the telltale smoke, no one is the wiser.?
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Meanwhile of course the deadly radon, as well as outgassing formaldehyde and deadly swine flu viruses and such all just build up and float around and are inhaled by any and all as they sip their microbrews in innocent ignorance.
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Michael J. McFadden
Author of “Dissecting Antismokers’ Brains”

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