Radon gas in buildings
What is radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that results from the decay of uranium in rocks and soils. The gas is colourless, odourless and tasteless and can only be measured using special equipment.
In the open air, radon is harmless. But in an enclosed space such as a house, it may build up to an unacceptably high level. Radon from the ground enters buildings chiefly through cracks in floors or gaps around pipes or cables.
How is radon harmful?
Radon decays to form tiny radioactive particles, some of which stay suspended in the air. When you inhale these particles, they give a radiation dose that may damage your lungs.
Radon has been shown to be a cause of cancer, specifically lung cancer. Remaining exposed to high levels of radon in an enclosed area can increase your risk of lung cancer, particularly if you smoke.
EPA Office of Radiological Protection
The Office of Radiological Protection is part of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is responsible for regulating, monitoring and advising on radiation matters. It assesses radon levels and identifies areas likely to be radon hotspots.
How can I measure the radon level in my home?
- The EPA recommends that all householders have their homes tested for radon. The EPA maintains a list of registered radon testing services.
- Testing involves placing two small detection devices in the house for three months. This period allows for variations in radon levels due to changes in weather, ventilation, and so on. At the end of three months, you post the detectors back to the testing laboratory. The lab calculates the radon level in becquerels per cubic metre, expressed as Bq/m3.
What if I find high radon levels?
- If the radon level in your home is over the national reference level of 200 Bq/m3, the EPA recommends that you should consider taking action to reduce the level of radon in your home (pdf). This is called ‘radon remediation’.
- The two main methods of radon remediation are to (a) prevent radon entering your home from the ground underneath or (b) remove the radon after it has entered your home.
- In either case, you should have your home re-tested after the work has been completed to ensure the radon level has dropped below 200 Bq/m3.
- Radon remediation works may qualify for the Home Renovation Incentive scheme.
How to apply
Contact a registered radon measurement service for further details.
Where to apply
- Find out if you live in a high radon area, by entering your address into the EPA’s interactive radon map.
- View a table that summarises the results of the radon survey for each county since the early 1990s.
- For information about radon and how you can reduce your exposure to radon levels in the home, see the EPA’s Radon in Homes booklet
- See frequently asked questions about radon or use the EPA’s queries form for other questions.
- See the EPA’s series of radon factsheets.