THE leader of the gas and oil industry body has moved to reassure residents living near the site of an impending fracking operation after concerns were raised over the operation leading to a colourless and odourless radioactive gas linked to cancer being inhaled.

Professor Averil MacDonald, chair of UK Onshore Oil and Gas, said the first monitoring measurements at the area surrounding Third Energy’s well at Kirby Misperton, near Pickering, suggested that radon concentration in the outdoor air was “close to the UK average”.

In response to claims by campaigner Dr David Lowry, Prof MacDonald added there had been no indication of elevated radon concentrations in Pickering, a radon affected area close to the well.

She said: “The analysis for the control site in Oxfordshire showed that the radon concentrations were similar to those for the Vale of Pickering.”

Dr Lowry said a Public Health England (PHE) report into the impacts of shale gas extraction found there was potential for radon, long-term exposure to which can cause lung cancer, to be present in natural gas extracted from UK shale.

He said US researchers had found in areas of Pennsylvania where the fracking had taken place “there was a generally higher reading of radon - with about 42 per cent of the readings higher than what is considered safe by federal standards”.

Dr Lowry added: “The researchers also discovered that radon levels spiked overall in 2004, at about the same time fracking activity began to pick up.”

Prof MacDonald said PHE had recognised that radon released to the environment from shale gas activities would be at concentrations that were not expected to result in significant additional exposure. She added PHE would be undertaking baseline outdoor and household radon monitoring around Third Energy’s well at three-monthly intervals.