WHAT IS RADON?
Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that can be found all over the UK. It is estimated that 1 in 15 homes in the United Kingdom has elevated radon levels. Radon comes from the natural decomposition of uranium in soil, water, and rock and can enter your home through cracks and other openings in the foundation. Once inside, it can build up to dangerous levels. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and claims about 20,000 lives each year.
WHAT HOMES ARE AT RISK OF RADON?
There are many factors that contribute to radon levels in homes, including the type of home, its location, and the materials it is made from. Some homes are more at risk of high radon levels than others. Radon is formed from the breakdown of uranium which occurs naturally in the ground. If a house is located near to or on top of a known area then the risk of radon will be higher.
Homes that are built on bedrock or have crawl spaces or cellars are more likely to have higher radon levels. This is because radon gas can seep up through the ground and into the home. Homes that are well-sealed and have good ventilation are less likely to have problems with radon gas. In this respect, there are many types of foundations that are not at risk of radon in the UK. Some of these include:
· Concrete block foundation
· Poured concrete foundation
· Slab-on-grade foundation
· Radon-resistant earth sheltered home
· Crawl space foundation with a vapor barrier and venting
These are just a few examples, but there are many others that are not at risk as well.
DETECTING RADON IN THE HOME
There are a few key things to look for when trying to determine if you have a radon problem in your home.
ROUTES OF INGRESS
Check for any cracks or gaps in your foundation. Radon can enter through these openings and build up to dangerous levels inside your home. Even small cracks can allow radon to seep in, and over time, this can lead to a build-up of the gas inside your home. If you're concerned about radon exposure, it's important to check for cracks in your foundation and repair them as soon as possible
MUSTY OR EARTHY ODOUR
Pay attention to any musty or earthy odours coming from your cellar or other lower-level rooms. These could be a sign of radon gas seeping into your home. Whilst radon itself is colourless and odourless, the earthy odour is indicative of a route of ingress for radon via cracks in the walls. It is important to make sure these areas are well ventilated to prevent radon build-up.
UNEXPLAINED HEALTH ISSUES
High levels of radon can cause lung cancer, particularly for smokers and ex-smokers. Radon produces tiny radioactive particles in the air we breathe. Radiation from these particles damages our lung tissue, and over a long period may cause lung cancer. The higher the level and the longer the period of exposure, the greater the risk will be.
TESTING FOR RADON GAS IN THE HOME
Radon gas testing is important for many reasons.
· Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
· Radon gas is present in nearly all homes at some level.
· Around one in every 15 homes has a high level of radon gas.
· Testing for radon gas is the only way to know if your home has a problem.
· There are two main types of radon gas tests: short-term and long-term. Short-term radon tests measure
· radon gas levels over a period of days or weeks. Long-term radon tests measure radon gas levels over a
· period of (usually) 3 months or longer. Short-term tests are ideal in cases such as a property purchase or property sale - or if you are looking to gain an indication / snap shot of radon levels within your home or building.
· Long-term tests of 3 months or longer, are PHE (UK health Security Agency) validated, also providing an annual average radon gas level in your home or building.
If you decide to test for radon gas, there are two things you need to ensure:
1. Choose the right type of test for your needs.
2. Follow the instructions carefully.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU FIND HIGH LEVELS OF RADON IN YOUR HOME
If you find that your home has elevated levels of radon, there are a few things you can do to mitigate the problem.
· Install a radon mitigation system, which will help to reduce the amount of radon in your home.
· Seal any cracks or openings in your home that may be letting radon in.
· Make sure that any ventilation fans in your home are properly vented to the outside.
BUYING A HOUSE IN A KNOWN RADON AREA
If you're thinking of buying a house in an area with high radon levels, there are some things you should know. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that can be found in any type of soil or rock. When it breaks down, it releases radioactive particles into the air. These particles can get into your lungs and cause cancer.
Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.
So how do you know if a house has high radon levels?
UKRadon.org has interactive maps of the UK which can give you plenty of information as well as the option to order localised reports. The other way (if you have access to a property) is to test for it. You can purchase radon test kits directly from our shop here.
The Target Level of 100 Bq m -3 is the ideal outcome for remediation works in existing buildings and protective measures in new buildings. If the result of a radon assessment is between the Target and Action Levels, action to reduce the level should be considered. The action level is 200 Bq m -3. This recommendation has been endorsed by the Government.
If the radon test results confirm elevated levels there are ways to reduce the amount of gas in your home. The most common method is to install a radon mitigation system. This system will vent the gas away from your home so that it doesn't pose a health risk.
If you own a home or if you're thinking of buying a house in an area with high radon levels, don't let the presence of this gas scare you off. With a little bit of knowledge and the right precautions, you can live in your new home safely and happily and without any elevated risks from the presence of radon.