What is radon
Radon is a radioactive gas which occurs naturally out of the ground. It has no taste, smell or colour. Outdoors it is diluted to very low levels. However, in certain circumstances, indoor levels can build up to high concentrations and can pose a serious risk to health.
Radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK after smoking. People who are exposed to high levels of radon are more likely to get lung cancer (much more so if they are smokers as well). Radon causes an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 lung cancer deaths a year in the UK.
Radon affected areas and action levels
Public Health England (PHE) recommends that average radon levels in homes should be no more than 200 becquerels per metre cubed (200 Bq m-3). This recommendation has been endorsed by the government. This action level refers to the annual average concentration in a home, so radon measurements are carried out with two detectors (in a bedroom and living room) over three months, to average out short-term fluctuations.
- See UKRadon (external website) to order a test kit; there is a charge for the kit
PHE defines radon affected areas as those with 1 per cent probability or more of a home having radon above the action level. PHE recommends that people in affected areas should test their homes for radon. The Wycombe district, in common with most of the UK, is largely within an affected area. PHE has assessed that the bulk of our area has a 1 to 3 per cent probability of being above the action level, with a small minority of homes having a 3 to 5 per cent probability.
Radon and house purchase
Even in affected areas, most homes do not have a radon problem. We can provide an estimated probability that a particular property is above the action level for radon. A more accurate estimated probability may be obtained from the UK radon website for a nominal fee, see link below. The only way to accurately find out is to carry out a radon test.
If you are buying a home, ask whether it has been tested for radon. Sellers are not legally obliged to volunteer the information that they know, but if you ask for it they must give it. Ask to see a letter giving the result. If, as in most cases, the result is under the action level, the home does not need to have the radon level reduced.
If the result is above the action level, then there may be a problem. In homes that do have a radon problem, the radon level can usually be reduced with simple, effective and reasonably inexpensive measures.