24 September 2012
Results of recent surveys carried out in both Jersey and Guernsey to obtain information about radon are now available.
In total, radon tests were carried out earlier this year in 137 homes, made up of 73 in Guernsey and 64 in Jersey. This was done in partnership with the UK Health Protection Agency (HPA). Premises were selected to cover different geological conditions or population areas.
Islanders in both Jersey and Guernsey were asked to take part in the surveys by the Public Health departments in both islands, to find out more about radon, which is a naturally occurring radioactive gas.
Of the 64 homes surveyed in Jersey, 41 properties were found to be below the target level of 100 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3), while 12 were between the target level and the action level of 200Bq/m3, and 11 were above the action level. All occupiers of homes over the 200 Bq/m3 action limit received a letter from the Health Protection Service offering advice.
Research into health risks
Speaking about the report, Val Cameron, the Channel Islands' Strategic Lead for Environmental Health, said “We are very pleased to have this new data, and to be able to share the results with Islanders. The recent survey updates and confirms the information from previous surveys: this is that radon is associated with the granite geology of the island, and not the construction material of an individual building.
"International research to date indicates that the only health risk associated with radon gas is lung cancer. However, radon poses a low risk in isolation – the main risk of lung cancer is for people who smoke.
“The report also provides further information on why radon exposure poses a very low risk to the health of Channel Islanders – and points to the sensible measures that can be taken to reduce the risk even further.”
“Of the homes surveyed, some were identified as being above the action level. Advice has been given to those householders about measures to remedy the problem. Examples include actions as simple as ensuring your house is well ventilated if you are in an at risk geographical area; if you are also a smoker, consider giving up”.
“Because radon increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers particularly (by about 15-30% in those exposed to radon over many years) we encourage and offer support to people who want to quit smoking. Householders who were surveyed where results were above the target level but below the action level have been advised of the risks for smokers in those properties.
“Radon can get trapped in sub floor spaces or cellars so good ventilation can help prevent an impact on health. The householder needs to be aware of the measures and take simple steps such as ensuring good ventilation.”
Dr Susan Turnbull, Medical Officer of Health for Jersey, said "To help put the main risk factors for the commonest form of lung cancer into perspective, for every 100 cases of lung cancer around 95 will have been caused by smoking alone, about 4 will be due to the combined effects of smoking and radon exposure, and only 1 will be due to radon exposure alone. So it is a real risk, albeit a low one. The most sensible thing anyone can do to reduce their risk of getting lung cancer is to stop smoking."
If you have not had a radon survey, and are worried about the possibility of radon in your home and the risk of lung cancer, the most sensible measures you should take are:
a) if you are a smoker, get help to stop
b) ensure your home is well ventilated
If you still wish to have a radon assessment you can arrange this at the reduced rate of £36 per survey by contacting the Health Protection Team (Tel: +44 (0) 1534 445808).