§ 2.55 p.m.
§ Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ What steps they are taking to inform the public about the effects of naturally occurring radon gas.
My Lords, we have published a range of booklets and leaflets describing the effects of radon and how it gets into houses, and giving guidance on ways of reducing radon levels. In March this year we arranged for a new leaflet to be delivered to every home in Devon and Cornwall, outlining what householders should do to apply for a free radon measurement. We have also made arrangements for a poster campaign and public service broadcasts in areas affected by radon.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply stating that much has already been done. While we are all exposed to radiation from natural sources, will the Government issue special advice and reassurance in those parts of the country where radon may cause a significant addition to radiation, especially inside buildings?
My Lords, we are doing that in the main areas in Devon and Cornwall, where perhaps 12 per cent. of the housing stock may be affected. We have taken certain actions: 20,000 measurements have been carried out. Since the publicity campaign in March, more than 72,000 additional requests for free radon measurements have been received and 50,000 are in progress.
§ Lord Williams of Elvel
My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that a map of the effects of radon gas was recently published? The black part of the map denoted the worst and the white the best areas. Leaving aside Devon and Cornwall, one of the black parts of the map was mid-Wales, where I happen to live. Will the noble Viscount be kind enough to inform me what action is being taken to tell me, as an inhabitant of mid-Wales, what the risks from radon gas are? I have received no information whatsoever on the subject.
My Lords, we have started in the main areas of Devon and Cornwall but our campaign will extend to the other areas that the National 648 Radiological Protection Board consider suitable. If the noble Lord is in such an area and contacts his local authority, it will explain to him how to get in touch with the board, which will allow him a free test.
My Lords, another part which appears black on the map is Cumbria, where I live. I should quite like to continue to live there. Is not the problem that we must reassure people that the dangers are minimal? We do not want those living in Cornwall, Devon, Cumbria and parts of mid-Wales to feel that they must inevitably move to some other part of the country. It is not necessary.
My Lords, the noble Lord is entirely correct. However, the levels where we consider it right to take action are half those that the EC recommend. It is quite easy to do what is necessary, either by sealing the floor or by installing air bricks to draw air out from below the floor of a building. That will sort the problem out.
Lord Campbell of Croy
My Lords, the National Radiological Protection Board has made recommendations which the Government are taking into account. Has the board completed the survey of the country which it undertook two or three years ago?
My Lords, I understand that the survey has been completed in the main areas. The board is now going into further areas to see whether there are any problems. I do not believe that it has yet finished examining every area; it has only examined the main ones.