Radon

Radon is a natural, radioactive gas with no taste, smell or colour. It comes from the minute amounts of uranium present in all earth materials such as rocks, bricks and concrete. Radon produces radioactive decay products which, when breathed in, irradiate the lung and increase the risk of lung cancer.  Health studies show that radon is responsible for 3 – 5 % of all lung cancers in the UK.  The second largest cause after smoking.

Radon is present in all homes and workplaces through out the UK.  The levels detected can vary significantly and raised levels can be detected in many properties throughout the country, including those in West Somerset.  Radon levels in buildings are influenced by a number of factors such as:

  • Uranium in the ground
  • Permeability of the ground
  • Construction of the floor of the building (radon enters buildings through cracks in the floor, shrinkage gaps between the floor & the walls, and any service ducts)
  • The degree of ventilation

We all breathe Radon gas throughout our lives - for most UK residents, radon accounts for half of their total annual radiation dosage.

What should I do to reduce exposure to Radon?
First you need to find out if you live or work in a Radon affected area.  The Health Protection Agency with the British Geological Survey has produced an Indicative Radon Atlas which can be used to find out if your home or business is in a Radon affected area.  For a small fee you can find out about the estimated radon potential for your home or business by following the link to the UKradon website (under External Links). Whilst the information held will not tell you if your property is affected, this can only be determined by measurement, it will tell you if it is in an area where more than 1% of properties are, or are likely, to be above the action level.

If your business is in a Radon affected area then you must make arrangements for the levels to be measured to find out whether the amount of radon in the air exceeds the action level.

If your home is in a Radon affected area then it is recommended that you make arrangements for the levels to be measured.

Advice on how to get the radon levels measured can be obtained from the radon section of the Health Protection Agency website.

What are the Action Levels?
There are two levels at which action should be taken to reduce the level of radon in a building.  The action level depends on whether the premises are domestic or used for business purposes.
The Health Protection Agency has advised that where measurements taken in domestic premises show the indoor radon to be above 200 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/ m 3) action should be taken to reduce the amount of radon in the air to below this action level.

The Ionising Radiations Regulations 1999 define the action level for the workplace. Where the workplace measurements show radon to be above 400 Bq/ m 3 employers need to decide what action is required to manage occupational exposure to the gas, both short term and long term measures need to be considered.  If the workplace levels are below 400 Bq/ m 3,  then the only further action required is decide when to review the situation.  More information on radon in the workplace can be obtained from the Health & Safety Executive website.

Why are the business and domestic action levels different?
The figure of 400 Bq/ m 3 is comparable with the Action Level of 200 Bq/ m 3 for homes, as it takes into account that most people spend much more time in their home than at work.

Where can I find more information?
There are a number of agencies that provide information on Radon (websites under External Links).