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What are the Health Risks from Radon

What are the Health Risks from Radon

Radon is a colourless and odourless gas that is present in all areas of the UK in varying quantities.  It is released during the natural radioactive decay of heavier elements such as Uranium 238 and seeps through the soil into the air.

Outdoors, the amount of Radon gas in the air is harmless – even in areas such as Cornwall where local geology means that more of the gas is present, outdoor levels are below 4 Bq/M3 (Becquerels per cubic metre of air is the measure of how much Radioactive matter is present in the air).

The risk from Radon Gas is elevated indoors where poor airflow means that the gas can become more concentrated.  On average, in a UK home, the amount of Radon is below 20 Bq/M3.  Public Health England recommend that the safe level of exposure to Radon is 100 Bq/M3, and that action must be taken if levels exceed 200 Bq/M3.

How Radon Gas Affects Health

As a radioactive element, Radon decays through nuclear fission – the atom splits in two parts and releases energy.  This is the same process that powers nuclear reactors but occurs in nature at infinitesimally low levels.

Radon has a relatively short half-life (the time taken for half of the atoms present to decay) of just under 4 days.  Radon decays into an element called Polonium and releases a high energy alpha particle.  Polonium is radioactive, with a shorter half-life than Radon – around 3 minutes – it undergoes a similar decay process releasing another alpha particle before it becomes lead.

If radon has been inhaled, it can become trapped in the body and the alpha particles that are released during the decay process can damage the cells of your lungs and airways.

Ionising radiation damages the cells in many ways, but the most dangerous is disruption to DNA in the cell nucleus.  Damaged cells can develop into lung cancer – in fact, radon exposure is the most common cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

What You Can Do About Radon Gas

If you live in an area which is at higher risk from Radon gas, then you should take steps to reduce your exposure.

The first thing to do is to arrange for a radon detector to be installed in your home.  This monitors the presence of Radon to determine if it is above safe levels.

If Radon levels exceed the safe levels of 100 Bq/M3 you need to act.  The most effective way to reduce radon concentrations is through improved ventilation.  Good airflow through a property prevents the concentration of the gas from reaching unsafe levels.

Positive Input Ventilation Systems work by drawing fresh air into a building from outside and pushing that fresh air through all rooms before expelling it out of the house.  Such systems use very little energy and run all the time keeping your air fresh.

If you are concerned what impact the Radon levels in your property might have on your health, please contact us today to book a free survey from one of our local specialists who will be able to measure the amount of radon gas present and make recommendations about the best course of action.