Radon comes from uranium, which is present to a small extent in all soils and rocks. It seeps out of the ground and can collect in enclosed spaces, such as houses. As amounts of uranium in the ground vary from place to place and because some ground allows air to move more freely than others, radon levels are higher in some parts of the country than in others.
In open spaces, when radon mixes with air, it is quickly diluted into the atmosphere, but when air, containing radon rises from the rocks and soil beneath your home it may find its way inside - mainly through cracks in floor, walls and gaps around service pipes. The level of radon indoors depends mainly on how much radon is in the ground and on the way in which the house is built.
Health studies around the world have linked radon with lung cancer. People who are exposed to high levels of radon are at risk of getting lung cancer and this risk is much higher to smokers than it is to non-smokers.
The government has set an 'action level' for radon in houses of 200 becquerels. If the levels in a house are higher than this, the householder is advised to take action. Most homes in the United Kingdom do not have significant radon levels. However, surveys have shown that some parts of Somerset are at risk from levels that require action.
Surveys have shown areas of the country that are at risk of radon. The British Geological Survey (telephone 0115 936 3143) can, for a fee, examine available data and advise whether or not precautions may be required in the particular area.
Public Health England also have an informative radon website on which you can search UK maps of radon to check your area for radon. If you are concerned you can also order a radon measurement pack to find out the yearly average radon level for a property, and if it is above or below the Action Level. Further information can be found at www.ukradon.org.
The Government has drawn up three categories of area with regard to radon:
Building regulations now require precautions to be taken, where necessary, to prevent the ingress of radon gas into new dwellings. Building Control is the appropriate department to give definitive advice about radon precautions in new dwellings.
If you are concerned that you are buying, or about to buy a property which you believe may be in a radon affected area and are awaiting test results, please talk to your solicitor about taking out a Radon Bond.