No, dears, don’t worry, radon in fracked gas is unlikely to pose any increased risks to our health.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in the ground, and is often collected with natural gas (methane) used to heat our homes and cook our food.
It is very well known and understood.
DW Dixon from the former National Radiological Protection Board (subsequently part of the Health Protection Agency and now Public Health England) comments on radon exposures from cooking with natural gas in a 2002 NRPB newsletter, sweeties, and has some interesting things to say:
“In homes where natural gas (methane) is used for cooking and heating, radon in the gas can make a contribution to the indoor radon level. Trace amounts of radon are carried from the underground source of the gas and released during combustion.”
Now, remember my darlings, that we’re not currently using any fracked gas in this way, and so this refers to existing sources of onshore and offshore natural gas from what are called ‘conventional’ reservoirs.
The author goes on to say:
“On the assumption that a household uses about 100 m3 of gas annually for cooking, natural gas contributes only about 0.2% of the average indoor radon level.
“Such low levels are generally considered to be within the range that might reasonably be regarded as trivial.”
So, the key words here, my little munchkins, are ‘trace’ and ‘trivial’.
According to NRPB estimates, a person has a 3% risk of dying from lung cancer if they live their entire life in a house at the radon Action Level of 200 Becquerels per cubic metre.
Radon in natural gas contributes around 0.5% of this Action Level.
DW Dixon goes on to say that:
“…radon levels in virtually all sources of UK gas are currently well below the threshold.”
Obviously, my dears, it would be sensible to measure the quantities of radon found in fracked gas, but there really is no reason to suspect that they will be significantly higher than the trivial levels we are already exposed to from current sources of gas.
And there is certainly no reason to be invoking unnecessary and irrational fears of increases in lung cancer, which some people seem intent on doing.
Until next time xxx