Radon Gas: The Silent Killer in the Countryside

Driving across the border from Somerset into Devon you pass a sign by the side of the road. “Warning: You are now entering a radioactive area,” it says. How would you feel? Would you continue your journey – or would you turn round and head for home?

magine if similar signs popped up on the outskirts of Banbury and Northampton, in the Yorkshire Dales, and in parts of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Would you be inclined to buy a house in those places? Would you go on holiday there?

Some of Britain’s best-loved beauty spots turn out to have the highest concentrations of what has been termed the country’s worst environmental pollutant. It is an invisible, odourless gas that seeps out of the ground and causes an estimated 1,100 deaths from lung cancer every year. It is called radon and last month the number of homes designated at risk was increased five-fold (from 100,000 to between 500,000 and 600,000), rendering millions more people officially vulnerable.

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