Could your new home be storing radioactive gas?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas present in the soil all around the UK, including here in Norfolk. Concentrations vary with the weather conditions, the seasons and location. At low concentrations, the risks to health are incredibly low, however, in higher concentrations it can be dangerous to our health. Exposure to high levels of Radon can leave radioactive deposits on the lungs and has been linked to lung cancer.
Although Radon gas quickly dilutes in the open air once it leaves the ground, when the gas becomes trapped inside buildings, the concentrations can build up to dangerous levels. Properties in areas such as Devon which have higher levels of naturally occurring Radon Gas are at a particularly high risk, as are properties with basements or cellars because of their larger surface area in contact with the soil.
Considering Radon when buying a property
An Environmental Search will be carried out as part of most property transactions. This will reveal a range of information about the local environment, such as flooding in the area, and should contain basic information about the levels of Radon in the area.
Where an Environmental Search result reveals a high risk of dangerous levels of Radon, enquiries can be raised during the property transaction to see if a previous owner has tested the Radon Gas levels at a property. Although information about the risks in an area can be found by searching online or as part of an Environmental Search, a test at the property is the only way to get specific information about the risks at that particular property.
Where no Radon Gas tests have been done previously and you have concerns about the levels of Radon at a property, you can ask the seller to carry this out. A testing kit can be ordered online which is relatively inexpensive and should not cause substantial delays to the Conveyancing process. The test involves placing small plastic detectors at the property for a period of seven to ten days and sending these to a laboratory for testing. This test will give a good indication of the Radon levels at the property. More expensive digital testing units can be installed for more accurate results, however, these test over a period of three months.
What to do if a property has high levels of Radon?
If a property is badly affected by Radon, steps can be taken to help reduce the levels at the property and make it safer. It may also be possible to negotiate a reduction in the price of a property if these measures are needed.
If you have any concerns about the risks at the property, you should speak to a specialist contractor; however, Public Health England recommend the following measures where the risks are high.
Positive Pressure Unit
This is a device installed inside the property which pumps air into the property from outside. By pumping more air into the property, the air pressure inside is slightly increased, preventing Radon gas from moving into the property from the ground. The number of these units which will be needed will depend on the nature and size of the property. A simple unit costs around £800.
This is a small area (around the size of a builders bucket) which is cleared under the property. This area will have a lower pressure than the surrounding soil and acts as a sink for the Radon. Radon moves into the sump and is then pumped out into the open air where it will dilute and no longer pose a significant health risk. Again, these systems vary in size and complexity, but a simple system costs around £1,000 to £2,000.
If you are thinking of purchasing a property, or if you have any questions about Radon, please contact our Residential Conveyancing Team on 01603 610911 who will be able to help.
Note: The content of this article is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be taken in any particular circumstance.