Wednesday 4th February 2015 is World Cancer Day, giving us a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of radon gas, the second leading cause of lung cancer in the UK.
One of the key messages of this year’s World Cancer Day is encouraging people to make Healthy Life Choices, with the organisers stating “Empowering people to make healthy choices and reducing the social and environmental risk factors for cancer are key to achieving the global goal of reducing premature deaths from non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 25% by 2025 and reaching the targets of the World Cancer Declaration.”
Our goal is to increase awareness of radon so that people can make a decision whether or not to test their home (we recommend that all homes are tested). Radon testing is the only way to know whether a building contains elevated levels of radon and whether the occupants are at risk of developing lung cancer.
We have created a simple factsheet and we hope that this will be shared with friends, family and colleagues to spread the message that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Print it and pin to your staff noticeboard, tweet it with the hashtags #worldcancerday & #radon or email a link to your nearest & dearest.
Letters were sent to households in areas covered by Cotswold District Council, Forest of Dean District Council and Cheltenham Borough Council inviting the householders to apply for a free test kit.
By mid-December, PHE reported having received responses from over 4000 householders. This represents roughly 25% response rate from the Cotswold and Cheltenham areas and over 21% from Forest of Dean.
UK Radon Association encourages all those who have been offered this free test to take up the offer, as testing is the only way to know whether or not a home is affected by harmful levels of radon. A test for a standard-sized property will usually cost in the region of £40 – £50, so you are saving money whilst also carrying out an important safety check on your home.
If you’ve been offered a free test but have concerns about the implications of taking the test, the process or the results here are some facts that may help you decide:
You have been offered the test because your home has been identified as being located in an area of higher risk of elevated indoor radon concentrations. Even in these areas, the majority of homes contain low levels of radon, but the only way to confirm this is by testing.
The results of the radon test are confidential. The test results are sent only to you (the householder) and are not publicly available on any database or website. Postcode-level data is used to assist in creating predictive maps, but this does not identify individual properties.
Testing for radon is very simple. You will be sent two small plastic detectors which simply need to be removed from the outer packaging and placed in the test locations (e.g. a bedside table in the master bedroom and a bookshelf in the living room). After three months, they should be posted back for analysis. It’s that easy!
A radon test report is a benefit when it comes to selling a house. If you have been offered a free test kit, your property is situated in a designated ‘radon affected area’. This statement will be included in the information that a potential buyer’s solicitor and surveyor supplies. It is likely that the buyer will then ask for a radon test to be carried out, so if you have already done this you are in a stronger position than a vendor who hasn’t, and can save time. If the test results show that work to reduce high levels is recommended, you can carry this out before putting the house on the market so buyers will be reassured that there is nothing to worry about.
If high levels of radon are identified, remedial works will be recommended. The cost of these works will depend upon the radon levels found, size and layout of the property and construction type. Remedial works will typically cost between £800 – £2000 (including VAT). Some types of radon remediation systems can also bring additional benefits to a building, such as the elimination of condensation and reduction of allergens.
The UK Radon Association has received the support of Rt Hon Don Foster MP, who has said that he “welcomes the formation of the Association to carry forward valuable work”.
Mr Foster, who is the MP for Bath and current Liberal Democrat Chip Whip was Minister for the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) between 2012 – 2013, when he says that his “interest and concern about radon” caused him to instigate an update of the Building Regulations and associated guidance.
Mr Foster said, “I support the Association’s efforts to ensure that buildings, new and old, are safe and healthy to live and work in.”
The UK Radon Association is grateful to Mr Foster for his support and encouragement, and looks forward to the upcoming publication of new guidance for radon protective measures in new buildings, which is expected in early 2015.
To read the full letter sent by Don Foster MP, please click here.
The UK Radon Association were invited to host a one-day workshop as part of the recent International NORM & Natural Radiation Management Conference, held in London.
The workshop was attended by delegates from the UK as well as countries including Canada, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Martin Freeman, Chairman of UK Radon Association welcomed the delegates and delivered a keynote address, which included details from the recently published HSE statistics report. Analysis of the statistics by the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) revealed that “We’ve put safety first at the expense of health” in recent years. The report continued “It is much easier to visualise falling of a ladder than it is to visualise the harm caused by exposure to gases and vapours”. It is hoped that this will generate renewed emphasis upon the need to conduct workplace radon risk assessments.
Rebecca Coates of UK Radon Association member company propertECO gave attendees a general overview about radon issues and how the risks can best be communicated amongst different stakeholder groups.
UK Radon Association Vice Chair Dr Maria Hansen (of TASL) spoke about the health effects of radon exposure and the various methods of testing for radon, including the use of passive monitors, continuous monitors and grab sampling.
Legislation regarding occupational exposure was discussed by David Lenden of RPmatters. David also detailed the requirements laid out in the new EURATOM Basic Safety Standards, which will see all European member states producing a ‘national radon action plan’ by February 2018, as well as possible alterations to the reference levels.
Two members of the UK Radon Association travelled to Charleston, South Carolina in September for the International Radon Symposium 2014. The annual Symposium is organised by AARST (American Association for Radon Scientists and Technologists) and this year attracted record numbers of attendees from industry, State and Government organisations, NGOs, research institutions and cancer charities.
Martin Freeman, Chairman of the UK Radon Association had been invited to present his paper discussing the conflict between basement waterproofing techniques used in the UK and radon management. This paper is due to be published shortly and a link to download it will be added to the blog when available.
The Keynote address was given by Janet McCabe, Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and was followed by an impassioned talk by Janice Nolen, Assistant Vice President of the American Lung Association about tackling the number of avoidable lung cancer cases caused by radon exposure each year. Both Ms McCabe and Ms Nolen were interested to hear about the UK Radon Association and extended their wishes of support to the organisation.
The three-day conference featured a packed schedule of talks from international speakers covering everything from radon testing protocol in multi-family units (apartments) to policies for radon resistant new construction (RRNC), methods of risk communication with different stakeholders to frameworks for ensuring quality installations by radon professionals.
AARST were extremely welcoming and were keen to encourage more international links. Radon is a worldwide issue and there is much that can be learnt and shared globally.
The Symposium also saw CanSAR (Cancer Survivors Against Radon) participating in the #WhipLungCancer campaign. Following the global success of the ‘ice bucket challenge’ earlier in the year, various lung cancer charities joined together to promote this campaign, which sees volunteers receiving a whipped-cream pie to the face in exchange for donations from family & friends. Well done to all those involved, including AARST Executive Director Peter Hendrick!