Page last updated at 18:28 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 19:28 UK

Uni radiation report considered

University of Manchester
The University is taking the report seriously

Residual radiation from experiments carried out at a university a century ago may have contributed to the deaths of two lecturers, it has been claimed.

The University of Manchester said it would look at a report handed to them suggesting people were exposed to radiation in its Rutherford Building.

The building was where pioneering nuclear physicist Ernest Rutherford carried out experiments in 1908.

But no decontamination measures were recorded there until 1999.

Rutherford, a Nobel Prize-winning chemist, carried out experiments using dangerous radioactive materials such as radon and polonium.

Experiments continued to be carried out in the building until 1947, but it was only in 1999 when decontamination was carried out.

I hope that the investigation will provide some helpful answers
Rachel Wagner

This was after an internal university investigation revealed radiation remained in four rooms, including room 2.62 - the one used by Rutherford.

The report, entitled "Possible health risks due to ionising radiation in the Rutherford Building (formerly Coupland Building 1) at The University of Manchester", was produced by Drs John Churcher, Don O'Boyle and Neil Todd, who worked in the building when it was home to the psychology department.

They claim that the deaths of two of their colleagues - Dr Hugh Wagner and Dr John Clark - from cancer may have been linked to radiation in the building.

Dr Wagner died last year aged 62 after working in room 2.62 for some years, while Dr Clark occupied the room directly below it, the report said.

'Detailed negotiations'

The university spokesman said: "The University sees merit in many of the recommendations contained in the report and accepts the case for a review independent of The University of Manchester.

"We have identified and will shortly begin detailed negotiations with the outside experts who will conduct that independent review."

Staff and students who worked in the building and are concerned about possible exposure to radiation are being urged to contact the university.

Dr Wagner's widow Rachel has consulted lawyers about possible legal action against the university for negligence.

In a statement released through her solicitor, she said: "The report raises serious questions and I hope that the investigation will provide some helpful answers.

"Many dear friends and colleagues - and there are many others whom I don't know - have worked in the building over the years: they could be alarmed by the report and will be wanting accurate information.

"I am reassured that the university is looking into not only the building's history but also its occupancy.

"I hope the findings can be released as quickly as possible."

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