Thursday, 21 July 2011

Radon Gas - Jersey’s danger won’t blow away

The democracy website published the following articles on the dangers of Radon gas in Jersey in September 2008 and May 2009. The Jersey corporate media has just taken up the issue because an Advocate's father may have died from cancer associated with the gas. It seems it takes a person with status in society to raise an issue before it is taken seriously. Here are the articles:

"The whole of Jersey is officially a radon gas affected area.

The gas occurs in the ground from decomposing uranium and includes such deadly components as Polonium 214 and 218 and is found especially in granite. When the gas collects within enclosed spaces it is very dangerous and can kill. It is estimated that 9% of all lung cancers in the UK are caused by the gas which only occurs in a few places like Cornwall. About 2,500 deaths are reckoned to be the result of Radon gas inhalation per annum.

Guernsey has not been declared a Radon gas affected area and in Jersey it will be worse in some areas than others. Where do you live and work in the Jersey Radon lottery?

In the UK it is necessary to declare when selling a house in a Radon Zone whether it has a known problem or has been treated. Under the HIPs reporting scheme Radon is flagged up and lawyers are obliged to ask the relevant questions. If necessary, tests must be carried out and in some cases financial bonds are written into the contract of sale so that a potential buyer is protected against future remedial works (usually about £3000 on a small house).

Of course, none of this takes place in Jersey where fear of losing money exceeds the fear of death. Here very little information is available about Radon and nobody is very keen to discuss it. Raw sewage floating out to sea or the dioxins emitting from the incinerator chimney are much more readily discussed because they are usually somebody else’s problem and are soon out of sight.
And it is more fun to annoy the government about these issues than fears about Radon gas which might directly affect our own pockets.

Newly built houses in Jersey must have Radon barriers and sumps installed but they are only a small part of the housing stock – most of which is built from natural granite or blocks of granite chippings. Other buildings like schools, offices, hospitals or workplaces don’t need to have Radon barriers although they are just as likely to be places where Radon collects. In the UK it is reckoned that about half of Radon barriers fail.

Radon gas “bubbles” up from the ground into buildings and into water courses. Thus people who use well or bore hole water are also at risk when the water is vapourised in showers or laundering processes and is thus absorbed through the lungs.

Does anybody monitor Radon gas in Jersey? Does anybody know if Jersey schools are safe? One newly built school in Cornwall was threatened with demolition a few years ago when its Radon gas levels were found to exceed safe levels by many, many times.

So, suppose somebody gets sued in Jersey for failing to disclose that Radon is a problem in a property they have sold and the new owner or his employee or guest develops lung cancer? Might such a case wake up the population to the Radon problem?

And, how about the States Chamber, that ill ventilated and ancient structure that our leaders are so fond of. Is it killing them with accumulated Radon gas seeping up through its leaky floor? Should we care if they don’t?

Those with a memory of the Senatorial hustings last year may recall that I raised (on this blog site) these same Radon fears - but my efforts stimulated no interest.
If those candidates had thought that they were competing for a place in Jersey’s very own Radon gas chamber perhaps they might not have been so keen to be elected?

Perhaps too, when the Deputies, Senators and Constables ask if it is in order to remove their jackets in the over heated and stuffy Chamber they might consider the greater potential hazard lurking beneath their feet and they just might like to ask if anybody is monitoring Jersey’s Radon problem….."

"So, we should all worry about pollution and poisons from the existing and proposed incinerators and its a hot election issue. Rightly so.

BUT who even mentions the deadly RADON gas that oozes out of the ground in Jersey and into every building and water course?

Since RADON gas is the 2nd largest cause of lung cancer in the UK (estimated 2,500 RADON related deaths each year) you might think that Senatorial candidates would at least mention such a serious menace that is already naturally present every day of our lives in Jersey!

Oddley, new -build houses in Jersey are required to incorporate RADON barriers - but ALL other classes of buildings are exempt. So if you breathe in RADON gas at school, or in hospital or the workplace - it doesn't matter -although it will kill you just the same!

In the UK in RADON affected areas (like Cornwall) HIPs (Home Information Packs) must declare that a home is safe. If not the Sellers will probably have to enter into a RADON bond with a buyer of about £3000 to install a RADON mitigation system if necessary. Why does such a process not exist in Jersey?

It is reckoned that in a RADON affected area that at least 1 in 100 homes will be over the safe limit and in Jersey where so many houses are built of granite or granite based blocks - the number is likely to be much higher. But who has any accurate figures for this Island?

Of course, it would not be good for sacred property prices to blight St Mary or St John as a high risk area - but what is more important - health or house value?

So where do you live and work in Jersey and how much RADON gas do you breathe in or absorb from RADON impregnated water when you take a shower?

Who should tell you?

Why not ask your Senatorial candidates what they know and what they have done or propose to do about this deadly gas?

Tom Gruchy"


  1. Following my extensive lobbying the Environment Scrutiny Panel accepted radon gas as a suitable subject for examination. Deputies Rondel and Wimberley have been tasked to deal with it but have not much to show so far.

    The possiblity that properties might be devalued if they have a high radon reading or are built in a known radon hot spot might be a factor behind Jersey's reluctance to deal with the potentially serious health problem.

    It is interesting in this context that a Jersey lawyer has stepped out of line to express concern. In radon areas in the UK it is necesary to give a radon status statement when selling a property within a radon zone (such as Cornwall). If remedial action has not already been taken then a bond has to be agreed between seller and buyer to cover any claims or for remedial works.

    The whole of Jersey is designated a radon gas zone. Strangely, Guernsey is not.

    Also strange is that radon has the ability (so it seems) only to affect domestic properties in Jersey because only new dwellings have to have "radon barriers" installed.
    Schools, hotels, care homes, offices, workshops etc etc do not!

    Whether the radio-active gas is as dangerous as some people claim needs to be thoroughly examined in the Jersey context. It is said that up to 2,500 deaths occur each year in the UK from radon exposure but this is difficult to check and only a few parts of the UK are affected.

    The evident urge to minimise concern in Jersey by the health protecting agencies is at least worrying but the gas emerges from the ground and collects in poorly ventilated areas (such as the States Chamber or basements).The threat from granite used in buildings and in making concrete blocks is not considered as serious.
    The gas also contaminates some borehole water supplies and is released when the water is used in showers and such like.

    Tom Gruchy says

  2. Geology is the key factor in whether a location is likely to be a high risk one. The boundary of the orange coloured area of this map
    are broadly the high risk areas.

  3. Part of the reason for asking for a Scrutiny review of radon dangers in Jersey was to determine if it was, in fact an exaggerated fear.
    The map from St Ouennais clearly indicates that the high risk area is not all over the Island. Yet all new houses and large extensions have to incorporate radon barriers etc. This is clearly a waste of money in many locations - so Ozouf should be adding this to his "savings" list.

    Equally, if any buildings (not just houses) have a known radon risk then this should be declared by sellers or to tenants when contracts and agreements are being drawn up. Buildings that are not at risk should also be identifiable.

    However, since we live in a sociatry that does not want to be responsible for dangerous pot-holes in roads it should come as no surprise that the truths about radon are so hard to determine. Perhaps one of the 53 could ask about public liability should a person contract lung cancer through living or working in a States' owned building with a known high radon gas level?
    Tom Gruchy says

  4. Have you asked about radon dangers in District 1 yet Nick?
    Perhaps you should since this is on your blog.

  5. So the States are giving £1.2 millions plus costs back to the purchaser of polluted land at Mont Mado.
    Interesting precedent in the world of Radon gas - just suppose people start demanding their money back if a bought building turns out to have dangerous levels of the invisible, no smell but radio-active stuff. Could be very expensive...says Tom Gruchy