Believe it or not, Radon is a naturally occurring gas.
Small amounts of uranium are found in most rocks and soils, as the uranium decays it produces radium which in turn as it decays, produces a new radioactive element - Radon.
As the radioactive gas decays it produces another radioactive element called Radon progeny and this is where the problem arises.
The Radon progeny behave like solids and can attach themselves to dust particles in the air. If inhaled, these solids can stick to the airways of the lung and increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
It is impossible to detect radon by sight, smell or taste. It has to be measured by detectors usually over a 3 month period.
These are then analysed to determine if the level exceeds the UK Action Level for Radon in homes recommend by the Health Protection Agency on Radiation Protection and Measurements.
Radon gas is measured in Becquerel’s per cubic metre and, according to UKradon (the UK’s reference site on radon from the Health Protection Agency), the UK Action Level for Radon in Homes is at or above 200Bq m-3.
High levels of radiation are dangerous, as radioactive particles in the air 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.
It is estimated that more than 1,100 deaths from lung cancer each year in the UK are caused by radon.
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