We are all exposed to radiation from natural and man-made sources. Just 20 Bq m-3, the average radon level in UK homes, gives us half our exposure to radiation from all sources, as shown in the illustration below. Higher radon levels give higher exposures: this is why it is important to find out the levels in your home, workplace or school.
Many studies around the world have shown that increased exposure to radon increases your risk of lung cancer, especially if you are a smoker. Therefore, it is vital that you should test your home and workplace should you live in a radon-affected area.
If you aren’t sure whether you live in a radon-affected area, you can visit the Public Health England website and explore the UK’s radon map. Every building contains radon, but the levels are usually low. The chances of a higher level depend on the type of ground. The darker the colour on the map, the greater the chance of a higher level. The chance is less than one home in a hundred in the white areas and greater than one in three in the darkest areas.
Therefore, if you live in any of the coloured areas, it is strongly recommended that you undertake a radon test to determine if you are being exposed to harmful levels of radiation. This also applies at the workplace. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, an employer must, as far as reasonably practicable, ensure the health and safety of employees in their work environment, which includes taking a suitable and sufficient risk assessment and taking appropriate action where necessary. Public Health England advises radon to be considered a hazard if a building is in a radon affected area.