Being informed on radon risks
Most people are not aware of radon until it is brought to their attention by their conveyancer during environmental searches that radon may be present in their locality.
Radon is a tasteless, odourless, invisible gas that occurs naturally throughout the earth’s crust. It is a by-product of the breakdown of uranium in the soil, rock and water. Over time, uranium will decay into lead.
The main danger from high radon exposure is the increased risk of lung cancer. For most people, radon is the single largest source of radiation exposure, whether they are at home or at work. It is in fact the biggest contributor to everyone’s general radiation exposure and according to Public Health England it is responsible for 1,100 deaths from lung cancer a year.
Radon is everywhere, formed from the uranium in all rocks and soils. Outdoors everywhere and indoors in many areas the radon levels are low and the risk to health is small. The darker the colour on the radon maps, the greater the chance of a high radon level in a building. However, not all buildings, even in the darkest areas, have high levels.
According to the UK radon maps, East Anglia has low to medium elevated radon potential, with pockets between Ely and Huntingdon, around King’s Lynn and Hunstanton and some areas between Saffron Walden and Felixstowe. More information, including a UK map of radon-prone areas, can be found at Public Health England’s radon information for householders page.
Radon gas typically moves up through the ground to the air above, and can enter your home through cracks or other openings in your foundations. Radon which escapes into the air is not a problem, since it is quickly diluted. However, radon gas that enters your house can remain trapped there, especially during the winter months when windows and doors are kept closed.
At Anglian Home Surveyors we know the local area and will report if there is a radon risk present. Not everywhere is affected by radon: the level depends mainly on the geology of the area and whether it is built up. An Anglian Home Surveyors building survey will highlight any issues with the building that can increase risk and go on to suggest solutions.
If you are buying or selling in a radon-affected area, you may wish to consider the following points:
- Ask the current owners if they have completed a three-month radon test
- If so, ask for a copy of the report
- If not, discuss a retention (see below) with your solicitor and test when you move in
Sellers in affected areas
- If you have previously tested your property, find the result (contact your test provider if necessary)
- If you have not tested, the new owner will be advised to do so when they move in
- You and your solicitor should be prepared to be asked about a retention
Retention – what you need to know
- A retention is a sum of money held back from the sale to help with remedial costs
- The typical remediation cost is £1,000
- A typical retention sum is between £500 and £2,000
- The money is initially held by one of the solicitors for a period of six months to allow time for moving in, the three-month test, analysis and receipt of the report
- If the result is below the action level, the money goes to the seller
- If the result is higher, the money pays for remedial works and a timescale is agreed to allow for the works and a further test
- Any surplus money goes to the seller. The next step is to arrange testing. This is an easy process and Public Health England supply a simple home measurement pack that you can order. The one drawback is that the test takes at least three months so is not something you should consider as part of the conveyancing process
Radon is heavier than air so the most common places for it to collect are in basements or under floor voids. If these areas are not sufficiently ventilated then our building survey will flag this up.
There are a number of remedies available, mainly to improve ventilation under floor voids, and may include installing a mechanical ventilation system within a basement.
Whilst radon can be a serious issue, please don’t let it put you off buying a home that is otherwise right for you, unless you have specific health concerns. The important thing is to have the information such as in the building survey report, enabling you to take the right action. You can then get on with the most important thing: enjoying your new home.
If you have any questions or require some free related advice then please do not hesitate to contact us.
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