Radon is a natural radioactive gas which comes from the decay of uranium in rocks and soil. It is colourless, odourless and tasteless.
Radon collects in enclosed places, such as houses, workplaces and other buildings.
Radon is the single biggest source of public radiation exposure in the UK.
Prolonged exposure to radon increases the risk of lung cancer, particularly in smokers. The lifetime risk of lung cancer is about 25 times greater for cigarette smokers.
Radon exposure is the second-greatest cause of lung cancer, after smoking, and is estimated to cause 30 deaths per year in N. Ireland.
The Industrial Pollution and Radiochemical Inspectorate is responsible for mapping radon levels in homes throughout Northern Ireland. The latest report on Radon in Dwellings in Northern Ireland (.PDF 2.9Mb).was released in 2009 and contains maps based on radon results from over 23,000 homes. It highlights that 1,200 homes in Northern Ireland have been identified above the Government Action Level for radon.
The darker the colour on the map, the greater the chance of having a higher radon level. If your home is in a coloured area of the map, it is recommended that you arrange for a radon test. This can be done by the Health Protection Agency (contact them at www.ukradon.org or on 01235 822 622).
The government have recommended an action level for radon in homes in the UK. This level is 200 becquerels per cubic metre. Above this level it is recommended that householders take action to reduce their radon levels.
Radon levels in homes can be reduced in a number of ways. The most effective is a radon sump. Air is drawn to the sump using a fan and is then expelled to the outside.
In new homes, a radon barrier fitted during construction can be effective at preventing radon infiltration into the building.
New buildings, extensions, conversions and refurbishments must be fitted with basic radon preventive measures in parts of Northern Ireland with a 1% or greater probability of exceeding the Action Level5.
For more information on lowering radon levels in your home, contact the Health Protection Agency on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01235 822 622.
A leaflet on radon is also available: Radon at Home at Work (.PDF 728Kb)
The presentations from the launch of the 2009 Radon in Dwellings report are available below:
- History of the Radon Programme in Northern Ireland - by Robert Larmour (.PDF 5.62Mb)
- Fourth Radon in Dwellings Report - by Martyn Green (.PDF 1.13Mb)
- Radon Mapping - by Jon Miles (.PDF 492Kb)
- A Building Control Perspective - by Gerald Coulter (.PDF 1.46Mb)
- National and International Developments - by Neil McColl (.PDF 245Kb)
For more information on radon in homes, contact NIEA on:
Industrial Pollution and Radiochemical Inspectorate (IPRI)
Gasworks Business Park
028 9056 9299
The control of exposure to radon in commercial and public buildings, including schools, is the responsibility of the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland or the appropriate district council.
Further related information can be found at www.bre.co.uk/radon.