Radon is a gas, which is produced naturally in rocks and soils and is radioactive. Normally, the gas is diluted in the open air, but it may concentrate in buildings, entering through small cracks and gaps. Radon has no smell, colour or taste so it is very difficult to detect.
Radon levels vary between different parts of the country and even between neighbouring properties. The average level of Radon in houses is 20 Becquerels per cubic metre (Bq/m3). An annual average of 200 Bq/m3 is considered to be the action level; above this level, steps should be taken to reduce the radon in the property.
Parts of the UK where 1% or more of homes are above the action level have been declared to be radon affected areas. This includes part of Amber Valley.
Every building contains radon but the levels are usually low. The type of ground increases the chance of levels being above the action level. Public Health England (PHE) and the British Geological Survey(BGS) have published a map on their joint website (www.ukradon.org) showing where high levels are more likely: www.ukradon.org/information/ukmaps
To find out the actual level in your home, you have to measure it when you are living there (see extended measurement and radon screening below).
The only reliable guide to the level of radon in a building is a measurement over a period long enough to average out short-term variations in radon levels, this should ideally be three months. The procedure uses passive monitors that are simple to use and can be sent by post. The result for each home is confidential and the council is not informed of the results. This service is provided by the PHE and others.
Provided by the PHE, this service provides an early indication of the likely result after only a couple of weeks. This can be useful for testing the effect of mitigation work or when planning structural changes to a building. Short-term measurements will be inconclusive in some cases. Screening tests can be helpful provided they are conducted in addition to the standard three-month test.
PHE provides a one-page report on the radon potential for a home. This report provides advice on radon potential and includes brief advice on what to do next.
This may include installing a sump that redirects the gas, using ventilation fans or sealing the floors. The cost of remedial work can vary from £200 to £1500. Where you need to hire a builder to carry out remedial work you should choose someone who is experienced in Radon Treatment. Builders can be found from the Building Employers Confederation or the Federation of Master Builders.
If the property is a new house, you should find out whether protection was included when it was built. If it is an older house, you may wish to have a test done once you have moved in. Remedial work can be carried out afterwards, if necessary, in the same way as damp problems or timber treatment.
If there is a high risk that there will be a problem with the property, you may wish to renegotiate the price or agree a bond to cover remedial costs should they subsequently prove necessary. Since Radon is routinely controlled, it should not be seen as a reason for not buying a particular house.
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