UK’s ‘most radioactive places’ exposed in map of worst areas for deadly radon

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Radiation is one of those words that strikes fear in people – an invisible, silent killer.

The success of the recent Chernobyl TV series will make many think about the horrifying nuclear meltdown from Russia in 1986, as opposed to something closer to home.

But the truth is we encounter radiation in our day-to-day lives, from the buildings around us to the food we eat.

In simple terms radiation is energy that can can pose a potentially deadly health risk by damaging our DNA, and comes from both natural and man-made sources.

And a map released by Public Health England shows just how badly some areas of the UK are affected by one type of radiation in particular.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas formed when uranium in the Earth’s crust breaks down.

Out in the open air its considered harmless but the risk increases when it seeps into buildings through cracks and holes, potentially building up to deadly levels.

It creates a radioactive dust that when breathed in can damage lungs and lead to cancer.

The interactive map shows the levels of radon across the country and if you click ‘show Radon Levels’ you can see how badly the area you live in is affected.

The map uses radon readings to estimate how much at risk your area is of having higher levels of radon.

The average level of is 20 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq m-3) and the level at which Public Health England encouraged action is ten times that at 200Bq m-3.

The darkest areas on the map are most likely to see higher, and therefore potentially more dangerous, levels.

Areas in the UK with the highest rate of radon levels
Whilst Cornwall may be one of the only places in the UK in Tier 1 for coronavirus, both it and the neighbouring county of Devon are among the highest areas for radon gas across the UK.

In Dartmoor, for example, concerns are significant enough that houses are fitted with radon detectors.

The middle of the vast moorland that is Dartmoor National Park is the worst place in the country for radon, as the ground rock is mostly granite, which contains small amounts of uranium that decays and produces the gas.

Residents in Dartmoor can be exposed to as much as seven millisieverts of radiation per year.

This means that while living there you encounter the same amount of radiation per year as a single CT scan or 85 transatlantic flights.

In the UK, most radiation that the public receives comes from radon and thoron gases.

Fortunately though even these highest levels aren’t close to necessary levels to cause serious, immediate harm.

Moving northwards, a strip of towns and cities from Weston Super-Mare diagonally through Gloucester, Banbury, and Northampton to Peterborough record similarly high levels of radiation.

Down on the south-coast, Worthing along to Brighton record potentially similarly high levels.

Whilst most of London records amongst the lowest levels, the more eastern parts of the city, stretching towards Folkestone on the east coast sees the potential for maximum radon levels rise once more.

The entirety of Wales records higher potential levels of radon as well, with Bangor in the north, and Milford Haven in the south showing peaks of radiation.

Both the Peak District National Park and the Yorkshire Dales National Park are islands of higher levels of radiation as well.

Apart from a spike in radon levels in Berwick-on-Tweed on the east-coast, Scotland has generally low levels of radiation than the neighbouring home nations.

In Northern Ireland, the south-east coast and westerly most areas show higher levels of radiation than the rest of the country, but nothing approaching the levels of Cornwall and Devon.

The map uses only Radon to measure radiation, this odourless colourless gas itself is a result of decaying Uranium 238 in the ground and soil.

If you wanted the exact average radon level for your property, you can actually order it on the government website for a small fee.

There are plenty of ways to reduce levels of radon too, from radon sumps to underfloor ventilation.