Radon is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas. It comes from the radioactive decay of radium, which in turn comes from the radioactive decay of uranium. Although found in small quantities in all soils and rocks, the principal areas of the country in which radon is a problem are the granite areas of Devon and Cornwall and the limestone areas of Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, North Oxfordshire, Lincolnshire, and Somerset. However, there are many other areas in England and Wales affected by radon.
Radon in the soil and rocks mixes with air and rises to the surface where it is quickly diluted in the atmosphere. Concentrations in the open air are very low. Radon that enters enclosed spaces such as buildings, can reach relatively high concentrations. The floors and walls of dwellings contain many small cracks and gaps formed during and after construction. Radon from the ground is drawn into the building through these cracks and gaps because the atmospheric pressure inside the building is usually slightly lower than the pressure in the underlying soil.
When radon decays it forms tiny radioactive particles, which may be breathed into the lungs potentially increasing the risk of lung cancer. In addition, smoking and exposure to radon are known to work together to greatly increase this risk.
For the purpose of considering risk in the home, Public Health England has advised the Government that the level of 200 Bq/m3 (Bequerels per cubic metre) should be considered the action level. If the radon level in your home is close to, or above the action level you should take measures to reduce the level, ideally below the action level.
A range of practical and cost effective solutions have been developed by the Building Research Establishment to help reduce radon levels in existing buildings and to prevent radon entry into new buildings.
During 2007, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and the British Geological Survey (BGS) jointly launched a new radon dataset for England and Wales. This dataset provides a radon probability banding for each individual property with a valid postal address. This estimated radon potential can be obtained through a website for a small fee.
Alternatively a simplified version of the new dataset has been published as the Indicative Atlas of Radon in England and Wales. This shows the highest probability banding for each 1km grid square.
Radon affected areas in Newark and Sherwood
Testing has shown that a considerable number of southern and central parts of Newark and Sherwood District Council's area are Radon affected. These include parts of Farnsfield, Edingley, Kirklington, Southwell, Thurgarton, Bleasby, Gonalston, Epperstone, Lowdham, Hoveringham, Caythorpe, Bulcote, Gunthorpe, Alverton, Kilvington, Staunton in the Vale, Cotham, Hawton, Balderton and Barnby in the Willows. In these areas there are only a small percentage of homes at or above the Government's Action Level of 200 Bq/m3.
This small risk is considered insufficient to require that all new houses be built with radon-proofing measures. If you are buying a property in a radon-affected area, ask the seller if it has been tested. If it has, they will be able to show you the results.