Radon is produced when thorium and uranium decay and, as these are two of the most common elements in the earth, a substantial amount of radon can rise up from the ground. It is in fact the biggest contributor to everyone’s general radiation exposure and according to Public Health England it is responsible for 1,100 deaths from lung cancer a year. When you compare this to only around 40 deaths a year from carbon monoxide poisoning you can start to see the scale of the problem.
The majority of exposure to radon takes place in the home, understandably as that is where most people send the largest proportion of their time. It is a colourless, odourless and tasteless gas so it can easily collect without the homeowner knowing.
Most people only become aware of radon when it gets flagged up during searches as part of the conveyancing process but your surveyor also has a role to play.
Your surveyor should know the local area and will report if there is a radon risk present. Not everywhere is affected by radon; the level depends mainly on the geology of the area and whether it is built up. A building survey will then also go further, highlighting any issues with the building that can increase risk and go on to suggest solutions. There are no issues with having a low level of radon present in a home, only when it starts to collect.
Radon is heavier than air so the most common places for it to collect is in cellars or under floor voids. If these areas are not sufficiently ventilated then your survey should flag this up. The next step is to arrange testing. This is an easy process and Public Health England supply a simple testing kit that you can order here. The one draw back is that the test takes at least three months so is not something you should consider as part of the conveyancing process.
If the presence of radon is confirmed then the next stage is to look at the remedial options. Where you have radon building up in an unventilated floor void then the first option should be fitting air bricks to the outside walls under the level of the floor. These will allow air to flow under the floor and blow the radon outside where it will dissipate. The added benefit is that any moisture that collects under floor will also be removed thereby reducing the risk of rotten floor joists and boards.
Where the problem is radon collecting in a cellar then you may wish to use a mechanical ventilation system. This will do the same job as an air brick but will move a larger volume of air.
Whilst radon can be a serious issue, please do not let it put you off buying a home that is otherwise right for you, unless you have specific health concerns. The important thing is to have the information enabling you to take the right action. You can then get on with the most important thing, enjoying your new home.
To book a survey please contact me here or call 01243 767 809.