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5 Things you may not know about Radon

Did you know this week is UK Radon Week?

This picture does not show radon, but is a representation of how it escapes through cracks a fissures in rock.

The BRE Academy, along with Public Health England and the UK Radon Association is supporting this campaign to raise awareness of radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer.

But do you know what radon is?

And how it can affect you?

Read on…and find out more:

  1. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas released as part of the uranium 238 decay scale. All rocks and soils contain uranium – some more than others – e.g. granite, sandstone, limestone. It travels to the surface through gaps and cracks in the rock
    • Areas like Cornwall, where the rock is very fissured, means that radon can escape freely, so levels in buildings can be very high
    • Areas like Aberdeen, where the rock is very solid, the radon cannot escape and so radon levels tend to be very low.
  2. Radon particles are so fine that our bodies don’t detect them – so unlike dust particles that make us cough – radon is breathed deep into the linings of our lungs. Radon gives a dose of alpha radiation, which has lots of energy, but cannot penetrate through skin, meaning that they release all of their energy in a very small area, damaging cells that can lead to cancerous growths.
    • Radon is linked with approximately 1,100 lung cancer deaths each year in the UK and is the second cause of lung cancer next to smoking.
  3. Radon can be drawn into buildings through cracks and gaps in the ground floor. Radon drawn up into a building gets trapped and can build to high levels, risking health with prolonged exposure.
    • Public Health England advises government on a UK radon action level of 200 Bq per m3 (Becquerel per cubic metre).
  4. There are tests you can do to find out your building’s radon level. Radon testing should be carried out over a long period (3 months) to allow seasonal adjustments to be made (radon levels are usually higher in winter than summer).
    • Radon detectors are passive (small detectors placed and left – they do not need to be plugged in).
  5. If your building has a high radon level, there are ways to combat this, including:
    • Drawing radon away from beneath the building (a radon sump)
    • Diluting radon levels in the building (positive ventilation)
    • Diluting radon levels in floor voids beneath the property (either naturally or mechanically)

So there you go! If you take anything away from this blog post, it’s to go and get your building checked!

For more information about Radon, check out this recording of a webinar that one of our experts delivered about this topic, or complete this 2-hour CPD online Radon course, where you’ll learn about understanding and reducing the risks or Radon.