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. It can be harmful to humans in large quantities.
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 but radon can gather in higher concentrations in the cracks and gaps in buildings.
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 other areas in England and Wales affected by radon.
Risk to public health from radon gas
When radon decays it forms tiny radioactive particles, which may be breathed into the lungs, potentially increasing the risk of lung cancer. Smoking and exposure to radon are known to work together to greatly increase this risk.
Public Health England has advised that the level of 200 Bq/m3 (Bequerels per cubic metre) should be considered the radon action level. If the radon level in your home is close to, or above this, you should take measures to reduce it.
A range of practical and cost effective solutions to help reduce radon levels in existing buildings and to prevent radon entry into new buildings have been developed by the Building Research Establishment.
Find out more about radon gas and risks to health on the Public Health England website.
During 2007, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and the British Geological Survey (BGS) jointly launched new radon data for England and Wales. This 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.