A radon survey has been launched across the Channel Islands by the health authorities in the island. The joint initiative between the States of Guernsey and Jersey and the UK Health Protection Agency will ask householders to take part in a survey. It is aimed at highlighting the health impacts of radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas. The three-month survey is expected to provide valuable data on the potential for exposure for island residents. Random addresses in Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney and Herm will be approached and if they agree kits will be sent containing two radon detectors and a prepaid return envelope. The detectors need to be put in the bedroom and living room of the property for a period of three months before being returned to the Health Protection Agency for analysis. Val Cameron, the Channel Islands' strategic lead for Environmental Public Health, said: "Everyone is exposed to radon all the time and for most of us it is the largest single part of our annual radiation dose, but there are areas where levels of this naturally occurring gas are higher and so this may raise the risks for people who live there. "The survey is part of our routine environmental health monitoring programmes and I would urge all of the people who receive the letter of invitation to take up this free offer." She said the results of the survey would give up-to-date information on radon levels across the Channel Islands so advice could be provided to householders, if necessary, on how to improve their homes and reduce their exposure to radon gas. (1)
On the matter of Radon, I wrote the following for the Parish Magazine, La Baguette. I researched the science myself, and then had it reviewed by Dr Mark Forskitt of St Ouen, and Professor John Hallam of Odense University, Denmark:
Is St Brelade more at risk for radon as a "granite parish"? There's a surprising amount of uranium in granite, and this decays to radium, and that breaks down and produces radon gas. The gas moves slowly through tiny cracks in the rock strata and out into the air. Outside, it just gets blown away, but the danger lies when it seeps into contained areas and cannot easily escape, and then it is possible for concentrations to build up to levels that may pose a threat to health, often in the foundations and basements of houses.
Radon does have risks, and it is responsible for around for about 2,500 lung cancer deaths a year in the United Kingdom (about 5% of the total). The risk is greater if an individual smokes and is exposed to high levels of radon, which is another good reason to give up smoking. But the risk to the average Parishioner is relatively small; you are probably far more likely to be run over by a car while crossing the road at Red Houses!
Jersey's had several surveys for radon gas, and there will might be another one soon, as the public become more aware of the risk. Surveys are simple to undertake. They merely involve the installation of a small passive detector in a house for three months. And there is no need to panic, because if your house did have higher levels of radon than are judged safe, installing ventilation equipment or making sure the house is properly ventilated will make the home safe again, and the cost will vary, but is estimated between £400 to £900. So when colder weather comes, and annoying draughts sweep under doors, it is comforting to realise that they are blowing away the radon.
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