Radioactive Gas Warning In Thames Valley

20 July 2011, 09:34 | Updated: 20 July 2011, 14:26

Heart's found out thousands of people in part of the Thames Valley could be exposed to cancer causing radioactive gas.

9,000 letters are being sent out to homes in West Oxfordshire to warn people they could be exposed to the gas which occurs naturally. In the letter they'll be offering people who live in areas affected a test to see if they're at risk from the gas.

Radon occurs naturally and is present all over the UK. It cannot be seen, heard, smelled or tasted  but each year is believed to lead to over 1,000 lung cancer deaths.

West Oxfordshire Dr John Cooper, Director of the HPA's Centre for Radiation, Chemicals and Environmental Hazards told Heart:

"Everyone is exposed to radon all the time and for most of us it is the largest single part of our annual radiation dose. However there are areas where levels of this naturally occurring gas are high and so raise the risks for people who live there - West Oxfordshire is one such area. Over the years we have measured around 800 homes in the district and I'm pleased to say most levels were generally low - but the geology suggests hundreds more homes may have high levels. Because of that we are urging people in West Oxfordshire to have a radon test and determine if they are at risk. We are writing to more than 9,000 households, that we believe are most at risk, to offer a free test."

Radon testing involves placing two plastic detectors, about the size of a biscuit, in key positions around the home. After three months the detectors are posted to the HPA where they are analysed and the radon level is calculated. If levels are high the HPA will recommend householders take steps to reduce levels with local advice sessions planned to help provide the information needed.

Dr Cooper added:

"The risk to health from radon is from long term exposure. Smokers can be at a greater risk because smoking increases a radon exposed person's chance of developing lung cancer. But radon exposure and the associated risks are things which can be greatly reduced. In most cases the remediation we recommend is relatively straight forward and some can even be undertaken by anyone with practical DIY experience. What we are hoping is that people will take on-board that radon in the home is a risk, that it's better to know how much exposure you are receiving and if it's too much that you can do something about it."