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What Are The Health Effects of Radon?

Radon gas is a problem affecting properties across the UK and you may not know you have it. This article will explain the dangers and health effects of radon and describe what methods can be used to reduce the problem.

Radon is a gas that occurs naturally in the ground, but if it enters a property and is allowed to accumulate the effects on the occupants can be deadly. Prolonged exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer, so it is imperative that your property or workplace is checked using a radon testing kit.

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the UK with approx. 1,100 deaths are attributed to radon each year. If a person is an ex smoker or is a current smoker then the chances of being affected by radon increase considerably.

Take a look at our infographic below and educate yourself on the dangers of radon and how to avoid its adverse effects on your health.

How Radon Affects your Health?

As radon decays, it emits alpha particles that can cause lung cancer.

Radon sticks to dust and aerosols in the air.

Particles radiate into the lungs and damage tissues.

Alpha particles are 100 times more likely to cause cancer than other types of radiation.

Risks Involved

We are all exposed in one form or another to radiation – from both natural and man-made resources. Without knowing it, for most people, radon accounts for 50% of their overall lifetime radiation exposure.

  • 50% Radon gas from the ground.
  • 5% Gamma rays from the ground and buildings
  • 12% Cosmic rays
  • 10% Food and drink
  • 14% Medical

Risk Factors

Radon increases the risk of lung cancer and the higher the radon, the greater the exposure and thus the greater the risk.

Lifetime risk of developing lung cancer:

Indoor Level Radon (Bq m^3)Non-SmokerEx-Smoker (gave up at 30)Ex-Smoker (gave up at 50)Current Smoker
20Less than 1 in 2001 in 601 in 181 in 7
2001 in 1901 in 481 in 141 in 5
8001 in 1001 in 281 in 81 in 3


The risk is greater for smokers and ex-smokers as there is a synergistic effect, however, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

Smokers choose to smoke, despite knowing the risks. Nobody chooses to live in a building with high radon levels; most are unaware of the risks.

What Are The Symptoms Of Being Exposed To Radon?

Having symptoms of radon will not occur right away. Health problems from radon exposure e.g. lung cancer will not show for a number of years.

Symptoms of lung cancer start from a constant, shortness of breath and having chest pains. If you have any of these symptoms then contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Is There Any Other Health Risks Other Than Lung Cancer?

As we have already explained, our lungs are what is exposed and harmed by radon. There is no further evidence to suggest that radon can cause cancers in other parts of the body.

How Does Radon Enter the Building?

Radon comes from the ground and enters a building via the surfaces in contact with the ground. Some radon will passively infiltrate into the building, for example, through cracks in the foundations and gaps around pipes.

Radon can also pass through certain materials, even those which provide an adequate barrier to water penetration.

The main mechanism through which radon enters a property is advection. This is the movement of the gas from the soil to the lowest point of pressure, which is usually inside the building.

This means that the gas is being ‘sucked’ from the ground into the building, and the greater this pressure difference is, the faster the rate at which the gas is drawn inside. There are measures that can be used to control and reduce the levels of radon through cost effective techniques, which will be explained later in the article.

The Dangers of Radon in Workplaces

In office spaces, radon can be the biggest occupational health risk. Employers are required by law to assess any risks to their staff while at work. This should include potential radon exposure and testing is required in any workplace premises that are located in a designated ‘radon affected area’ or have a basement.

Public Health England (PHE) recommends five points to ensure a healthy environment for office premises near radon affected areas.

– Measurement: Ensuring proper tests for radon concentrations on the ground floor and occupied basements.

– Surveillance: Until the remedial action is complete, the monitoring should be continued.

– Risk Assessment: Set priorities for action based on radon levels

– Mitigation: Remedial action within six months

– Maintenance: Periodic testing and routine checks

What Can You Do To Reduce The Health Risks of Radon?

The first thing you need to do is check the radon map to see if you are in a high radon risk area. If the UK radon map shows that your area could potentially have high radon levels, then you will need to carry out some form of radon testing at your property.

While there are areas in the UK that are more at risk of radon, however, the only true way to know is to have radon testing carried out. You can purchase either 10 day or 3 month radon detectors online which will provide a reading in Becquerels (Bq/m3).

Once you have received the radon test results and the reading show high concentrations of radon within your home, then radon mitigation methods will need to be carried out.

How to Reduce Radon Levels?

If you have a reading over 100 Bq/m3 then it is recommended by the government that action should be taken to reduce those levels. The techniques that can be used to reduce high levels of radon are the following:

– Positive Pressure Ventilation. Positive pressure systems bring clean, fresh air into the building and inhibit radon being drawn in via advection by altering the pressure difference between the building and the ground

– Radon Sump. A radon sump is a small void created beneath a building, which acts as a collection point for the gas. Pipework and a fan are then installed to vent the gas safely away from the building.

– Cellars and Basements. Cellars and basements can be more complex to remediate and a combination of techniques, including positive pressure, sumps and sometimes special membranes may be required.

Who Can Help Reduce the Health Risk from Radon?

At PropertECO we are here to help with any of your radon-related questions. Having radon gas at your property can be a scary thought but the best solution is to first carry out a radon test, book a radon survey and then have the necessary mitigation works carried out.

Our team are on hand at every step of the process to help reduce the radon levels in the property below the target level of 100 Becquerels. Simply get in touch by clicking the link down below:

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