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Radon Gas

Volume 492: debated on Tuesday 12 May 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether his Department plans to provide (a) high level alerts and (b) public health advice to those resident in areas prone to high levels of radon gas. (273618)

Householders and employers are able to find out the risk of a high radon gas level in a property from the radon probability maps of the United Kingdom published by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and, for England and Wales, the British Geological Survey.

The HPA operates a website

www.ukradon.org.

It holds annual radon forums with local government, the national health service, the Building Research Establishment (BRE) and other stakeholders to publicise the radon programme, to receive feedback, and to explore any policy gaps. HPA also supports regional radon steering groups comprising groupings of local authorities in high risk areas of England and recommends testing homes in radon affected areas (that is where 1 per cent. or more of homes are estimated to be above the Action Level of 200 Bequerels/m3).

The basis of the Government radon programme in England for existing homes is to target the higher risk areas, where 5 per cent. or more of the houses are estimated to be above the action level. Radon testing programmes are run in partnership between HPA and local authorities, with radon tests offered free to householders in these areas. The local primary care trust and the BRE provide support and registered social landlords such as local councils and housing associations are encouraged to extend the radon testing programmes to all their properties in radon affected areas. HPA informs householders and landlords by letter of the result of the radon test and whether it is near to or exceeds the action level. If so, remediation is advised and householders are encouraged to attend special local events to discuss remediation organised jointly by the HPA, the relevant local authority and the BRE. A small number of homes in England have been found to have radon levels in excess of 10,000 Bq/m3 (50 times the action level). HPA offers financial help and works with the local authority to remediate these homes, using advice from the BRE to help local contractors.

Devolved Administrations generally mirror English policies and contribute proportionate funds to HPA for each initiative. In particular, a similar radon programme has recently been announced by the Scottish Government, to accompany publication by the HPA of new radon maps for Scotland.