What do you know about Radon?
What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring gas. It is odourless, colourless and formed by radioactive decay of small amounts of uranium that occur naturally in all rocks and soils. Increased risk of lung cancer is the principal danger from exposure to higher levels of radon exposure on a consistent basis. It is estimated to be the second biggest cause of lung cancer with a figure of around 2000 fatal cancers per annum (smoking is the primary cause, around 80%).
While in the open air the levels of radon are generally low, in certain areas buildings may concentrate the levels of radon to significant levels. Radon levels can be cheap to measure and effectively remedied by effectively sealing the building at ground level and providing an alternative route for ventilation. The remedy will vary according to the type of floor the building has in combination with radon levels.
So what do you need to do?
In the first instance, the defined level is set at 400 Bq/m3 for a workplace. Above this level, employers are required to take action to restrict resulting exposures, taken from the Ionising Radiation Regulations 1999. The country has been extensively surveyed by the British Geological Survey and Health Protection Agency (HPA). An interactive map is available at the following web address to indicate the likelihood of significant radon levels in the area. Note there can be variability on buildings even within the same area. The map will provide an indication of the likelihood of significant radon levels.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends an assessment if the workplace is within a 1 km2 grid of a shaded area (white areas are considered not to require an assessment). These considerations could also be included as part of risk assessments, required under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Reliable results for radon levels are required. A workplace pack can be purchased where detectors are left for 3 months in a fixed position. These detectors are sent back for laboratory analysis. The results will indicate if further action is required or confirm that the levels are within acceptable limits.
If levels are in excess of the defined level, common methods of reducing the levels are outlined from Public Health England via the following link. In addition, specialist advice may also be sought.
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