Radon contamination causes approximately 1,100 deaths in the UK every year. Studies have shown that over 500,000 homes are at risk and households could be living with deadly radiation in their home without knowing it.
Manufacturer of ventilation products, EnviroVent, has put together a short guide discussing what radon contamination is and how it can be avoided.
What is radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas in the air. In most parts of the country, radon occurs outside and is diluted by fresh air, so the low levels pose no threat to health. This is categorised as background radiation.
But some parts of the country have higher levels of radon than others. These tend to be areas rich in granite, a type of rock which sometimes contains uranium that can decay and release radon.
Radon build up
When the radioactive elements in radon are inhaled, they can continue to decay and emit radiation from inside the lungs. The most dangerous kind of radiation comes in the form of alpha particles. These can be absorbed into lung tissue and lead to lung cancer.
In the UK, Devon and Cornwall are most heavily affected by radiation due to the presence of igneous granite. When radon gets into a house it can build up, undetected, in confined spaces.
If you are concerned that a client’s home may be at risk from radon, the first step is to get the area checked. The most reliable way to do this is to buy a home measurement pack. If levels are found to be high, a sump or ventilation unit can help to improve air quality and reduce radon to acceptable levels. The home measurement pack needs to be set up in the home for three months and then returned for analysis. The whole process takes around four to five months.
An alternative, which is quicker and more cost effective is to contact a local ventilation specialist who can carry out a free radon survey which involves placing a digital radon tester in the property for seven days to get an accurate reading.
An effective solution to prevent radon build up is for contractors to install an active radon sump or to use some other form of whole house ventilation. Powered by a small electric fan, an active radon sump is a pipe that runs from roof level to just below the floor within an external wall, through which radon should pass harmlessly out of the home.
If the radon gas levels are below 500 Bq m-3 another cost-effective alternative is a positive input ventilation system which can bring fresh air into the home from a loft or central hallway location, efficiently diluting radon levels in the home.