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What Is Radon Gas?

What Is Radon Gas?

By EnviroVent May 02, 2016

Radon is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas. It is formed by the radioactive decay of the small amounts of uranium that occur naturally in all rocks and soils.

Radon is a dangerous radioactive gas which can't be detected by humans, as it is invisible and has no smell or taste. It accounts for half of the radiation we are all exposed to daily, with the other half coming from a mix of sources. At normal levels, this radiation is harmless, but exposure to a radiation source like radon above safe levels is dangerous and can cause serious health problems. 

Why is Radon Gas Dangerous? 

The video shown below from propertECO gives a quick overview of the important facts that all homeowners, landlords and employers should be aware of.

Where does Radon gas come from?

Radon is a  radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home. It was discovered by English physicist Ernest Rutherford in 1899 and can only be detected using specialist equipment. 

All soil and rocks naturally contain small amounts of uranium. As this element decays, radon is formed, which then rises to the surface. It is found everywhere, and is always at safe levels outdoors. However, it can be at dangerously high levels in buildings, depending on the part of the country, and the type of ground the building is on. Other significant factors include the design and materials used in the building, and the habits of the occupants. Two neighbouring houses might have varying levels of radon.

The health risks of Radon gas

High levels of radiation are dangerous, as radon causes radioactive dust in the air. This can become trapped in our airways, and continue to emit radiation, including dangerous alpha particles. The damage this causes to tissues increases the risk of lung cancer, with this risk going up as levels of radon and exposure times rise. Due to the nature of Radon it can be described as an invisible killer, like carbon monoxide. 

Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. The early signs and symtoms of lung cancer to be aware of; 

  • Persistent cough.
  • Coughing up blood.
  • Wheezing.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Hoarseness.
  • Chest pain, especially when you cough or laugh.
  • Frequent infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

Those at most risk of exposure to Radon and therefore it’s dangers are people that are subject to confined air spaces, particularly in underground work areas such as mines and buildings. However Radon can also affect water supplies, as elevated radon levels can occur in private water supplies.

What is a safe level of Radon gas?

Radon is measured in units called becquerels, and these are calculated per cubic metre. Generally speaking, a level below 100 Bq/m³ is considered low risk, and the UK average is far below this at 20 Bq/m³. As the radon level rises past the 100 Bq/m³ point, the risk begins to increase. Testing radon levels is simple, and merely involves placing a radon testing device in your home for at least 7 days to ensure an accurate reading is gathered. If you live in an area where high radon levels are more likely, it is recommended that you test your home. You can see the level of Radon in your area by using the Public Health England's interactive map. You can also order a Radon detector, like a carbon monoxide detector they can be placed on a shelf but they can be damaged by heat or submersion in water and should not be opened.

If you opt to do this and discover levels to be within the safe zone, you can rest assured that there is a low risk. If, however, you find that there are dangerous levels of radon in your home, there are actions you can take to lower them to within the safe limits.

Six facts to know about Radon gas

1. It is invisible and has no smell or taste.

2. You can purchase a detector and similarly to a carbon monoxide leave it on a shelf and it will alert you if it detects any Radon.  

3. Certain areas are much higher than others.

4. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

5. Radon can even affect water supplies, as elevated radon levels can occur in private water supplies.

6. Ventilation van prevent Radon in your home. 

What can you do?

If you find out that your home contains high levels of radon gas, don't panic! There are simple solutions to reduce the amount of radon, and keep you and your family safe.

At Envirovent, we offer a range of ventilation systems for your whole house, which improve your air quality and effectively deal with radon. Contact your local ventilation specialist to test your home for radon gas and find out if you are living in a radon affected area.