Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It has no taste, smell or colour and it requires special devices to detect it. Radon is everywhere and it comes from the radioactive decay of naturally occurring uranium, which is found in small quantities in all soils and rocks. Radon levels vary between different parts of the country and even between neighbouring buildings.
Radon from 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. However radon that enters enclosed spaces, such as buildings, can in certain circumstances reach relatively high concentrations.
Derbyshire Dales has been designated a radon affected area. This means that the buildings in the area have a greater than one per cent chance of having a level of radon which is higher than the action level set by government.
Radon is the biggest contribution to radiation exposure of the UK population and it can be dangerous. When radon decays it forms tiny radioactive particles that may be breathed into the lungs. Radiation from these particles can cause lung cancer that may take many years to develop. The lung cancer radon causes proceeds in exactly the same way as cancer caused by smoking. In addition, smoking and exposure to radon are known to work together to greatly increase the risk of developing lung cancer.
It should be emphasised that when the radon concentration is high, it does pose a serious risk to your health.
In residential premises the Action Level is set at 200 becquerels per cubic metre and in commercial premises the Action Level is 400 becquerels per cubic metre.
More recently, a new target level of 100 becquerels per cubic metre has been introduced. This is as a result of a recommendation from the World Health Organisation. The above action levels have still been retained so that attention is still focused on those at greatest risk, however, the target level aims to ensure we are aware of the risks from radon and encourage us to make efforts to reduce levels to as low as is practical.