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What is Radon Poisoning and How Can You Reduce the Risk

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What is Radon Poisoning and How Can You Reduce the Risk

By EnviroVent Jan 26, 2021

Every year, Radon Poisoning causes more than 1,000 deaths in the UK, but many people do not know what Radon is, or how it can damage their health.

Government data shows that millions of people are at some risk of Radon Poisoning due to the geography of where they live, and in some cases, those people should take action to reduce the concentration of Radon in their homes to protect their health and that of their families.

What is Radon?

Radon is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas which is emitted during the breakdown of naturally occurring uranium, which is found, in small quantities, in soil and rocks all over the world.

In most cases, Radon escapes harmlessly into the environment, and over time, breaks down into harmless by-products through radioactive decay.  However, Radon gas can build up in places where it cannot escape into the atmosphere quickly – such as poorly ventilated homes – and this can lead to unsafe levels of the gas which can be damaging to health.

The ionisation effect of the Radon Gas creates radioactive particles of dust called Radon Daughters which are breathed in and can damage the airways.

Why Radon is 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.

The damage that Radon causes increases a person’s risk of developing lung cancer.  This is particularly true for smokers or other people with weakened lungs.  Current estimates for lung cancer deaths annually in the UK suggest that of 1,100 people who die of the disease.

Who is Most at Risk of Radon Poisoning?

While Radon is present everywhere, the levels of the gas in the environment vary considerably across the country.  The highest risk areas are in the South West (Devon and Cornwall) and in the East Midlands, but there are also high-risk spots elsewhere due to local geography. 

People who live in areas with higher concentrations of Radon Gas will usually be advised when they buy or sell a property with data supplied by Public Health England.  The government manage interactive maps of the country where you can view your local risk levels.

In higher risk areas, placing a detector in the property for 3 months to measure levels is recommended – the concentration can vary from day to day, so getting an average over a longer period helps to get an accurate picture of the risk.

Tens of thousands of buildings across the country have some level of Radon inside them.  In most places, the levels are extremely low risk – around 20 becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/M3).  There are no levels which can categorically be described as “safe”, although at low concentrations, the risk to health is minimal.  As concentrations of the gas rise, the health risk increases.  Above 200 becquerels per cubic metre, action should be taken, and from 100-200 Bq/M3, the government recommend that people take steps to reduce Radon levels as a significant number of people who die of radon-induced lung cancer lived in homes within those levels.

In most cases, reduction to below 100 Bq/M3 is the target of any improvement in higher risk properties.

Lowering Radon Levels

There are many steps which you can take to reduce Radon levels and reduce risk.  Remedial measures such as sealing floorboards can help to reduce the flow of Radon into the property, and because the gas originates below ground, a “Radon Sump” which sits below the property and uses a fan to blow higher concentrations of the gas away from the building is an option – although it is highly invasive and costly to retrofit.

In most cases, the most effective solution to Radon Poisoning is improved ventilation.

In homes adversely affected by radon, ventilation is a proven method of reducing exposure to the radiation. Good ventilation keeps air in a property moving and prevents it from accumulating to dangerous levels.

At EnviroVent, our surveyors and fitters are extremely knowledgeable about radon exposure and can offer a range of solutions to the threat of radon poisoning with filtration and ventilation units.

Our quiet, but highly effective units run at low costs and they provide benefits other than radon reduction.   Good ventilation also reduces surface condensation which can lead to mould and reduce heating bills.  Positive Input Ventilation Systems draw in air from outdoors and filter it before passing it through the building.  This can be helpful in reducing allergens that aggravate hay fever and asthma.

Envirovent has surveyors working in all parts of the UK who can provide expert advice about reducing the threat of radon poisoning.  Please contact a member of our team today for a no-obligation consultation.

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