Radon poisoning: What is it, and how can you reduce the risk?

Radon poisoning: What is it, and how can you reduce the risk?23/05/2016

By EnviroVent

Radon poisoning is the cause of more than 1,000 deaths in the UK each year, yet many people do not know what radon is, or how radon poisoning occurs.

According to government data, millions of people all over the country are at some level of risk of radon poisoning. So, what exactly is radon and when should you take action to reduce the threat of it effecting you in your own home?

What is radon?

All rocks, soils and water contain a small amount of uranium, which is a metal used to produce nuclear power. When the uranium breaks down, an odourless, tasteless, colourless radioactive gas called radon is emitted.

This type of radiation isn't a problem when the gas is released straight into the atmosphere. However, if the gas is not released into the open air, and instead seeps into buildings through cracks in the foundations, then it does not disperse. Once inside a building the decaying gas turns to tiny particles, which are often called radon daughters.

Why is radon a threat to health?

Exposure to high levels of radon particles can have extremely serious, sometimes fatal, effects on health. The particles are radioactive, so there is a very real danger they will damage lungs when people unknowingly breathe them in.

It has been proven that the damage radon causes will increase a person's risk of developing lung cancer, this is especially true for smokers who have already weakened their lungs. According to a study carried out by Cancer Research UK and the European Commission, it is estimated that 1,100 people will die every year in the UK as a result of radon-induced lung cancer. Smokers account for about half of these deaths.

Who is most at risk from radon poisoning?

Since radon is present everywhere, it is important to distinguish between low risk, medium and high risk areas in order to avoid unnecessary concern. Most of the high risk areas are found in the south-west and east Midlands, but there are numerous radon hot spots scattered across the rest of the country.

Since there is an established health risk associated with radon, maps which identify the high, medium and low risk areas are publicly available. A search of these maps is standard practice for solicitors when properties are bought and sold.

What levels of radon are considered to be safe?

Radon is found in tens of thousands of buildings around the UK due to the fact that uranium is present in all rocks and soils. Most homes will register levels of about 20 becquerels per cubed metre

The government has admitted that there is no level of radon that can categorically be deemed 'safe'. However, it has set a guideline which states that if a level of 200 becquerels per cubed metre is found, then action should be taken.

People living in homes with a level of radon between 100 and 200 becquerels are advised to give serious consideration to taking steps to reduce radon levels. This is because a significant number of people who have died of radon-induced lung cancer lived in homes with a radon level below 200 becquerels.

The target for radon reduction works is to bring levels down to 100 becquerels per cubed metre or less.

How are radon levels determined?

As radon cannot be detected by sight or smell, the only way to establish whether a location is a high risk area is by scientific testing. It will usually take about three months to confirm the level of radon present; this is to ensure fluctuations do not create a false reading.

How can radon levels in buildings be lowered?

Creating a 'radon sump', which will lower radon levels, is one option for people who own their own home. The sump is created by installing a fan and pipe below the foundations of a house so the gas is blown outside. It can be a costly, and invasive, process though.

Remedial measures, such as sealing floorboards, can help lower radon levels if combined with other solutions, but it is difficult to completely seal a floor, and doing so can cause wood rot.

Is ventilation a solution to radon poisoning?

If a home is adversely affected by radon, ventilation is a proven method of reducing exposure to the radiation. This is because ventilation helps stop the radon particles from accumulating and reaching dangerous levels.

At Envirovent, our surveyors and fitters are extremely knowledgeable about radon exposure, and how to mitigate the risk it poses to health.

We can offer a number of solutions to the threat of radon poisoning with our Mr Venty Eco units. The range is suitable for almost all homes because it boasts a variety of models that can be fitted in houses, bungalows and flats. And all of our eco units come with an intelligent comfort heater as part of the standard purchase. They are BBA approved, boast long life filters and are guaranteed for five years.

Our quiet, but highly effective units run at low costs and they provide benefits other than radon reduction. They tackle surface condensation and mould, improve heat distribution, stop windows from streaming, get rid of musty smells and can reduce the cost of heating bills. They can also prove beneficial to people who suffer from asthma. Once they've been fitted by our highly trained installers, the units will turn a home blighted by stagnant air into a fresh environment.

For people living in a house with loft space, an energy efficient unit can be installed on the landing or central hallway which will unobtrusively ventilate the whole home. Models which have summer cooling features are available too. To improve the air quality in flats, we have a variety of wall units. As with the units suitable for lofts, models with summer cooling features are also available.

Envirovent has surveyors working in all parts of the UK , so to get expert advice about reducing the threat of radon poisoning just contact a member of our friendly team for a no-obligation consultation.

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