Radon, because it is a gas, is able to move though spaces in the soil or fill material around a home or workplace's foundation. Most buildings tend to operate under a negative pressure - this is especially true in the lowest portions of the building and during the heating season. This negative pressure acts as a vacuum (suction) that pulls soil gases, including radon, into the lower level of the structure.
What Is Radon Gas?
Radon is a radioactive gas - this means that it continuously decays and releases radiation. It is produced from minerals in the soil, such as uranium and radium.
Breathing in radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK resulting in up to 2000 fatal cancers per year. However radon hazards are simple and cheap to measure and relatively easy to address if levels are high. Under UK regulations all employers must review the potential radon hazard in their premises.
Read more about the impact of Radon Gas at: www.hse.gov.uk
Although radon is present throughout the environment, when high levels are present indoors people are exposed to more of its radiation and their risk of cancer increases. Such a situation can be discovered easily and corrected.
- Heated air rising inside the building (stack effect).
- Wind blowing past a building (downwind draft effect).
- Air used by fireplaces, wood stoves, and furnaces (vacuum effect)
- Air vented to the outside by clothes dryers and exhaust fans in bathrooms, kitchens, or attics (vacuum effect).
- Radon can enter a building through the floor and walls -- anywhere there is an opening between the building and the soil.
- A basement, of course, provides a large surface area that contacts soil material.
- Major Radon Entry Routes
- Cracks in concrete slabs.
- Spaces behind brick veneer walls that rest on uncapped hollow-block foundations.
- Pores and cracks in concrete blocks.
- Floor-wall joints.
- Exposed soil, as in a sump or crawl space.
- Weeping (drain) tile, if drained to an open sump.
- Mortar joints.
- Loose fitting pipe penetrations.
- Open tops of block walls.
- Building materials, such as brick, concrete, rock.
- Well water (not commonly a major source in Welsh homes).
Once radon enters a building it moves freely throughout the air indoors, where people can breathe it into their lungs. Understanding how it distributes through the environment can help explain why timing and location are important factors to consider when conducting a radon test.
The level of radon is often highest in the lower part of the building. Radon moves by diffusion and natural air movements, so it can be distributed by mechanical equipment such as a forced-air ventilation system. As radon moves away from a building's foundation or other entry points, it mixes (and is diluted) into a greater volume of air. Additionally, more dilution often occurs in the upper levels of the building because there is more fresh air ventilation.
Greater dilution and less vacuum may also occur when the house is more open to the outdoors during the non-heating season. This generally results in lower indoor radon levels in the summer compared to the winter.
Radon is colourless, odourless and tasteless. Therefore, a radon test is the only way to find out how much radon is in your home. RPW Radon Wales recommends that all employers and homeowners have their properties tested for radon gas. Every building is unique due to its local soil, construction details, maintenance and degree of depressurisation. Therefore, test results from nearby buildings cannot be relied upon to predict the radon level in another. Likewise, previous test results may not reflect current and future radon levels for a building that has been remodelled, weathered or had changes made to its heating, air conditioning or other ventilation and heating systems.
The results of a properly and professionally performed radon test will help employers and homeowners determine for themselves if they need to take further action to protect their employees or family from the health risks of radon.
Contact RPW Radon Wales by telephoning 01994 231 850
Radon Gas In The UK
You are driving across the border from Somerset into Devon you pass a sign by the side of the road:
"WARNING RADIOACTIVE AREA"
How would you feel?
Would you continue your journey – or would you turn round and head for home?
Imagine if similar signs popped up on the outskirts of Banbury and Northampton, in the Yorkshire Dales, and in parts of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Would you be inclined to buy a house in those places? Would you go on holiday there?
Some of Britain's best-loved beauty spots turn out to have the highest concentrations of what has been termed the country's worst environmental pollutant. It is an invisible, odourless gas that seeps out of the ground and causes an estimated 1,100 deaths from lung cancer every year. It is called radon and last month the number of homes designated at risk was increased five-fold (from 100,000 to between 500,000 and 600,000), rendering millions more people officially vulnerable.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the decay of uranium 238, which is present throughout the Earth's crust. It is concentrated in parts of the country rich in granite, such as Dartmoor in Devon, and Cornwall. In the open air, radon causes no problems. We all breathe it in throughout our lives – and for most of us, radon accounts for half of our total annual radiation dosage. But it can seep into buildings through cracks and holes in the foundations, where it can build up to dangerous levels. What makes it dangerous is that, being odourless and colourless, it is easy to ignore.
"If only we could see Radon Gas then maybe more people would take it seriously, but unfortunately it isn't."