Isle of Man households to take part in radon survey

Six months after elevated radon levels were discovered in five schools on the Isle of Man, residents are being invited to take part in a three month survey that will lead to the creation of a radon map of the island.

Two thousand randomly selected households will be invited to take part in a radon survey next week. Those that agree to participate will be asked to place two small coaster sized detectors in their home for three months, before returning them for analysis. 

radon monitor, home radon tests, air quality tests

Radon is a radioactive gas which is formed when uranium in the ground decays. When it permeates the ground into open air, it is diluted to low concentrations but if it rises into a building, it can become trapped and build to dangerous concentrations. Cellars are particularly affected due to the greater surface area that is in contact with the soil.

The World Health Organization classifies radon as a class 1 carcinogen, indeed it is responsible for around 1,100 lung cancer deaths each year in the UK, second only to smoking.

The forthcoming survey is not taking place because of the presence of the high radon levels that were found in the schools last year, rather it is all part of the same process. 

At the schools, the levels were described as ‘minor exceedances’, with 97% of rooms surveyed described as ‘well within’ legal limits.

This contrasts with the situation at Kingswood School in Bath which was fined £50,000 last year after five pupils were exposed to levels of radon nearly eight times the legal limit. Two other children, who don’t attend the school, were exposed to levels almost 14 times the legal limit. 

Earlier this year, 194 inmates at Dartmoor Prison were moved out of the jail after tests revealed high radon levels.

On the Isle of Man, there is a strange situation in which The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) – under whose remit this investigation falls – are in the strange position of knowing that some homes (they estimated between 0.3% and 1%) are above the actionable levels for radon but, as the information is held on confidential databases, they don’t know which ones.

The project is part of a legal obligation to limit people’s exposure to any form of radiation following updated health and safety legislation and it will provide data on the potential for exposure to the gas.

It is being carried out by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which also tested the schools.

The results will be used to create the Isle of Man’s first radon map such as those that already exist for other parts of the UK. 

Clare Barber MHK, Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, said: ‘We’re asking people to help us develop a clear overview and once the map has been developed, the Government can look to address the findings.’

Tracy Gooding, Radon Group Leader at the UKHSA, said: ‘We are keen for people to take up the offer of a free test. It is really straight forward and will show whether you should take action to protect you and your family, and contribute to the island’s first radon map.’

Paul Day
Paul is the editor of Public Sector News.


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