Health Effects Of Radon Exposure

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An expert advisory group of the Health Protection Agency has today recommended that the Agency should consider tightening its recommended safety levels for radon gas in homes and workplaces.

Radon - a naturally occurring gas - is the major source of human exposure to ionising radiation in the United Kingdom and is responsible for an estimated 1,100 lung cancer deaths a year; most of which occur in current or ex-smokers.

Following an in-depth review of the latest scientific evidence, the HPA's independent expert Advisory Group on Ionising Radiation has recommended that the Agency should place greater emphasis on reducing the UK average indoor radon concentration. The Advisory Group recommends a lowering of the radon Action Level - the point at which the Agency advises homeowners take steps to reduce indoor concentrations of radon - from 200 Bq m-3 to 100 Bq m-3 in areas known to have high concentrations of radon.

In addition, the Advisory Group also recommends that radon control measures in new buildings, currently required only in high radon areas, should be considered in most if not all of the UK.

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Advisory Group chairman, Professor Bryn Bridges, OBE, said: "We have reviewed the risk of lung cancer from exposure to radon gas in the home using all sources of information. It now seems appropriate to move towards an approach that reduces the average exposure across the whole country.

"A health economics analysis shows that several options could be cost effective. For example, cost benefit analysis shows that preventative measures such as a membrane under the floor in new homes would be justified throughout the entire country rather than just in specific areas as at present."

The Advisory Group indicates that the benefits of taking remedial action in existing homes are sensitive to a number of factors including the cost of identifying homes with relatively high radon concentrations.

In 2008, the Agency recommended that basic radon protective measures be installed in all new UK dwellings.

The Health Protection Agency's Chief Executive, Justin McCracken, said: "Our Advisory Group's report is a valuable contribution to the growing scientific understanding of the health risks from radon in the home and as a result of the points they have raised we have today published a consultation document which considers all their recommendations. Once the consultation is completed, the Agency will present its recommendations to Government."

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