Radon – The Silent Killer

Drew Barker
Posted February 12, 2024

Radon is a bigger killer than carbon monoxide, but many people are still completely oblivious to the risks.

Radon concentrations across the UK

What is radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, emitted from the slow decay of radium and uranium in soil, rock, and water.

Radon can be problematic if it gets trapped in poorly ventilated homes. It seeps into buildings through cracks in foundations, gaps in flooring, and other openings, accumulating indoors where it can reach harmful concentrations.

A European study, funded by Cancer Research UK and the European Commission, showed that radon in the home increases the risk of lung cancer1. In the UK, radon levels vary geographically, with certain regions such as the South West of England, the Yorkshire Dales, Wales, Devon and Cornwall, and parts of Scotland exhibiting higher concentrations than average due to geological factors.

Radon produces radioactive dust, which can accumulate over time in the lungs. Prolonged exposure to elevated radon levels poses significant health risks, primarily increasing the likelihood of lung cancer. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), radon exposure is responsible for approximately 1,100 deaths from lung cancer each year in the UK. What makes radon particularly insidious is its invisibility and the fact that its effects often manifest over years or decades, making early detection and mitigation imperative.

As awareness about the health implications of radon grows, so too does the awareness of the need to implement effective mitigation strategies, particularly in residential construction.

You’ll be pleased to hear that the Beattie Passive Build System has radon protection as standard.

How does the Beattie Passive Build System protect against radon?

The Beattie Passive Build System offers robust protection against radon through several key design features:

  1. Airtight Construction: One of the primary ways the Beattie Passive Build System protects against radon infiltration is through its meticulous attention to airtight construction. By sealing potential entry points such as cracks, gaps, and openings in the building envelope, the system minimises the pathways through which radon gas could enter the indoor environment. This airtightness ensures that the home’s interior remains insulated from external contaminants, including radon, thereby reducing the risk of radon accumulation.
  2. Radon Barriers: As standard practice, the Beattie Passive Build System incorporates robust radon barriers into the construction of its buildings. These barriers provide an additional layer of protection against radon infiltration. By acting as a physical barrier, these membranes prevent radon gas from permeating through the building envelope and entering the indoor living spaces. This proactive approach significantly reduces the likelihood of radon accumulation within the home.
  3. Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR): The Beattie Passive Build System integrates Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR) systems to ensure optimal indoor air quality while minimising heat loss. These systems continuously extract stale air from areas prone to moisture buildup, such as kitchens and bathrooms, while simultaneously supplying fresh, filtered air throughout the home. By maintaining balanced ventilation, the MVHR system helps to dilute and expel any radon gas that may enter the indoor environment, further reducing the risk of radon accumulation.
  4. High Thermal Performance: By prioritising insulation and thermal efficiency, the Beattie Passive Build System minimises air leakage and heat transfer, creating a more stable and comfortable indoor environment. This high thermal performance not only reduces energy consumption but also helps to maintain consistent indoor air quality by minimising the infiltration of external pollutants, including radon. By optimising the building envelope for energy efficiency, the system indirectly enhances radon protection by reducing the pathways through which radon gas could enter the home.

In summary, the Beattie Passive Build System offers comprehensive radon protection by combining airtight construction and radon barriers with Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery (MVHR). By addressing radon risks at the foundational level of construction and as part of the ventilation strategy, the system ensures that occupants can enjoy safer and healthier living environments, free from the dangers of radon exposure.

1. Radon in homes and risk of lung cancer: collaborative analysis of individual data from 13 European case-control studies. BMJ, 330, 223-237.