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Ribble Valley Borough Council

Radon in Ribble Valley

Radon in Ribble Valley

1. Background

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which is formed by the decay of small amounts of uranium present in all rocks and soils. It has no taste, smell or colour.

Outdoors, radon becomes diluted to very low levels and is of little concern. However, indoors radon can be drawn in through cracks and gaps in the ground floor of properties and levels of the gas can build up to a higher concentration. In such cases, radon can pose a serious risk to health.

People who are exposed to higher (elevated) levels of radon are more likely to get lung cancer (much more if they are smokers as well). This is because radon decays to minute radioactive particles which can be breathed in, thus damaging the lining of the lungs and irradiating the surrounding tissue.

It is estimated that radon causes 1,000-2,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United Kingdom.

2. How is Radon Detected and measured?

Radon is normally measured over a three month period, using two small pots provided by the Health Protection Agency (HPA). Its concentration is measured in becquerels per cubic metre of air (Bqm-3) and the HPA recommends that radon levels should be reduced in homes where the annual average concentration is more than 200 Bqm-3. This figure is known as the Action Level and has been endorsed by the government. The average level in the UK is 20 Bqm3.

A radon measurement kit (two detectors) costs £49.80 (including VAT) and can be ordered by telephone from the HPA (01235 822622). Payment can be made by major credit or debit card.

It is extremely difficult for a Local Authority to identify those properties which may have high concentrations of the gas, as levels can fluctuate significantly between adjoining dwellings. This may be due to a number of factors, including the geological characteristics of the ground beneath buildings, details of construction and the habits of the occupants.

Simple measures such as increasing ventilation within a property are often successful in reducing levels of the gas. However, in exceptional cases, a radon sump may be required (details of which can be obtained from the Building Research Establishment website www.bre.co.uk/rad)

3. Radon affected areas

On 12 November 2007 an updated Radon Atlas was published jointly by The Health Protection Agency (HPA) and The British Geological Survey (BGS).

This updated Atlas differs significantly from its predecessors, as Radon Affected Areas are now grouped into 1km grid squares (the atlas shows the highest probability banding found in each 1km grid square). It combines the results of an extensive national sampling programme with detailed geological maps, which has resulted in a large increase in the number of designated Radon Affected Areas (both locally and nationally). More significantly, over 90% of the Ribble Valley is now designated as a Radon Affected Area.

The main advantage of this advanced data set is that it provides a radon probability banding for each individual property in England and Wales, with a valid postcode.

Therefore, for a fee of £3.60 (inc VAT) any individual can carry out a search for a particular property on the UK radon website www.ukradon.org. The results of this search would reveal:

  • Whether a property is located in a Radon Affected Area.
  • The estimated probability of the property being above the Action Level.
  • Whether radon protection is required for new buildings and extensions at the property location.

4. Action taken by Ribble Valley Borough Council

Since 1999, RVBC have surveyed a total of 198 properties for radon gas. The majority of these properties were selected either because of their location within a Radon Affected Area or due to the underlying geology.

The results are summarised below:

Radon concentration in the Ribble Valley
Radon Concentration (Bqm3
0-99
100-199
>200
 Total number of dwellings

Barrow

1

-

-

1

Billington

2

-

-

2

Bolton-by-Bowland

8

-

-

8

Chatburn

16

7

-

23

Chipping

1

-

-

1

Clitheroe

19

2

1

22

Downham

3

1

-

4

Grindleton

55

23

11

89

Holden

4

4

2

10

Horton

1

-

-

1

Langho

2

-

-

2

Longridge

2

-

-

2

Mellor

2

-

-

2

Mitton

3

-

-

3

Newton

2

2

2

6

Ramsgreave

1

-

-

1

Ribchester

1

-

-

1

Simonstone

1

-

-

1

Sawley

5

2

2

9

Slaidburn

1

-

-

1

Stonyhurst

1

-

-

1

Waddington

4

-

-

4

Whalley

2

-

-

2

Wilpshire

2

-

-

2

TOTAL

139

41

18

198

The significant findings of these results reveals that out of 89 dwellings surveyed within the Grindleton area, 11 exceeded the Action Level, whilst a further 23 had an elevated radon concentration of between 100 and 200Bqm3.

The remaining 7 failures were observed in the villages of Holden (2); Newton (2); Sawley (2) and one in Clitheroe itself.

It may therefore be advisable, should you wish to consider purchasing a property in any of the above areas, for you to ask the vendor whether they have already had a radon gas test undertaken and ask them for a copy of the results. For any further information, please contact Matthew Riding, Environmental Health Officer (Housing) on 01200 414470.