The latest “community support” offer from the Treasury (“Fracking payouts condemned as ‘bribes’,” Guardian, 8 August ) for those areas having fracking rigs installed in their neighbourhood is truly a ‘Russian roulette’ gamble for local people.
This is what the final report of Public Health England ( the heath watchdog) - Review of the potential Public Health Impacts of Exposures to Chemical and Radioactive Pollutants as a Result of Shale Gas Extraction Process (published in October 2014) stated: "If the natural gas delivery point were to be close to the extraction point with a short transit time, radon present in the natural gas would have little time to decay...there is therefore the potential for radon gas to be present in natural gas extracted from UK shale." (http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317140158707)
Moreover, an article in the Washington Post on April 10 last year (“Rise of deadly radon gas in Pennsylvania buildings linked to fracking industry,
(”www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2015/04/09/rise-of-deadly-radon-gas-in-pennsylvania-buildings-linked-to-fracking-industry/). reported a detailed study in the journal, Environmental Health Perspective, that revealed a “disturbing correlation” between unusually high levels of radon gas in mostly residences and fracking that has become the industry standard over the past decade.
The researchers found that, in the same areas of the state of Pennsylvania as the fracking operations, there was a generally higher reading of radon - with about 42% of the readings higher than what is considered safe by federal standards.
The researchers also discovered that radon levels spiked overall in 2004, at about the same time fracking activity began to pick up.
At the end of July 2013 the Communities Department published its Revision of building regulation policy on radon. In the impact assessment it explains the reason for the revised regulation is:
“Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas linked to lung cancer. Alongside a health and awareness programme and testing and remediation of existing buildings, current Government policy includes targeted intervention through the Building Regulations which requires radon protection in new buildings in areas of elevated radon risk….We intend that the Building Regulations and supporting statutory guidance is clear on current radon risks, and ensures buildings are fitted with proportionate measures to prevent the ingress of radon and thus reduce radon-related lung cancers. ”
It later adds “The respective cumulative risks of lung cancer [from radon exposure] affecting people by age 75 years in the UK at 100 and 200 Bq m-3 are 0.42% and 0.47% for non-smokers and 17% and 19% for continuing smokers.”
It also states boldly: “The chosen policy will maintain a targeted regulatory intervention (aligned to the most up-to-date radon maps), to ensure that all buildings in higher-risk areas incorporate appropriate radon measures.”
In light of this clear precautionary approach, it is odd that all ministers seem to be uncritically cheerleading for expanded fracking, despite its possible radon risk.