Should I worry about Radon gas? Radon is found everywhere, but there are particularly high concentrations in some areas, such as parts of the West Country. Residential property specialist Victoria Cranwell explains the nature of the problem and how it’s rectified. Victoria also considers how Radon is addressed during the conveyancing process.
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Should I worry about Radon gas?
Until it permeates your consciousness during a house purchase, there’s a good chance you have never heard of Radon gas.
What is Radon gas?
Radon is a natural radioactive gas that comes from rocks and soil. It’s odourless, colourless, and detectable only with specialist equipment. Radon surrounds us but in varying levels of concentration around the country.
It’s the primary source of background radiation exposure for most of us. Outside, even in areas of higher concentration, Radon gas disperses quickly and levels are very low. But inside buildings, Radon levels can be much higher. According to Cancer Research UK, exposure to indoor Radon gas is linked to 4% of lung cancer cases. Hence the need for awareness and, occasionally, remedial action.
However, even if your chosen property is in an area with higher levels of Radon gas, in most cases, the levels of indoor radon will be well within acceptable limits. Levels in a particular property are influenced by various factors, including the underlying geology and its construction. And even the current occupants’ habits in terms of heating and ventilation play a role. Properties with basements or cellars, or those built into a hillside, are always at a higher risk of Radon. That’s because there are extra surfaces in contact with the ground through which the gas can permeate into the building.
The Environmental Search obtained by your conveyancing solicitor will confirm whether the property is in a high, intermediate or low-risk area for Radon gas, and the percentage of properties affected in that area. If the search highlights a risk, it’s advisable to test the level of Radon.
The most reliable tests for Radon occur over a three month period. This allows for seasonal variations in levels and therefore provides a more accurate indication of long-term exposure. Detectors are usually placed in the living room and a bedroom, as these are the most frequently used rooms. Of course, it’s unlikely that others in the chain, particularly your seller, will be happy at the prospect of a three month delay! It’s possible, though, to carry out a short-term screening test. This works in exactly the same way as the three month test, but with detectors in situ for only around ten days.
There’s a requirement for remedial action on the detection of high levels of Radon in the property. Remedial works usually focus on improving ventilation to aid the dispersal of the gas. But sometimes work there’s additional work to reduce the volume of gas entering the building in the first place.
Radon gas levels by postcode
Public Health England has published an interactive map of the UK showing where higher Radon gas levels are more likely. But it’s important to remember that these are only estimated and, as highlighted above, have no real bearing on the specific property you want to purchase.