You may have heard about people testing radon levels when either selling or buying a home overseas. But how high are the levels of radon in Australia, what health risks does it pose to homeowners and when should you have a radon inspection conducted?
In this article, we aim to arm homeowners, sellers and potential home buyers with enough information to make an informed decision about radon testing and whether or not it’s needed in Australia.
What is radon in homes?
Radon is a colour, taste and odourless radioactive decay or gas that’s naturally occurring in the ground. It’s a by-product of uranium decay products, which is usually found in rocks and soil.
The main reason people should avoid coming into contact with radioactive gas is because of its highly cancer-causing agents. As radon is able to move through cement, sheetrock and other building materials, it can easily penetrate the foundation of your home. In areas with high concentrations of radon, this is something to be aware of as it poses several health risks to humans.
What are the health impacts and risks?
Sadly, in the U.S. radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, exceeded only by cigarette smoking. The risk of developing lung cancer from exposure to radon depends on the level of radon consumed over time; the higher levels of radon in the air we breathe, the bigger the risk of lung cancer and other respiratory issues, such as cough, pain or tightness in the chest, hoarseness, or trouble swallowing.
Correspondingly, the longer we breathe in high levels of radioactive gas, the higher the risk. When radon builds up in your home where you spend most of your time it can be very dangerous. Some reports have indicated radon exposure to be more harmful than if asbestos is found in your home.
The good news is, when consumed only in small amounts, radon gas does not pose a major health risk. The even better news is that according to a 1990 nationwide survey of more than 3300 Australian homes and their radon reading (ARPANSA), the average concentration was 10Bqm3. This compares to approximately 1/4 of the world’s indoor average. This means the radon risk is considered “of minimal concern to health” for the Australian population.
Where can you find radon in Australia?
The average radon levels in Australia are well below the worldwide average. However, radon can always be found in the air we breathe. The concentration of radon gas is higher indoors than outdoors as buildings have the effect of trapping radon. Radon levels are also dependent on the type of house and its ventilation. Elevated radon concentrations can usually be found in homes with limited ventilation.
Typically, subfloor areas, particularly those situated below ground level, tend to confine excess levels of radon, which would otherwise disperse safely into the environment. The gas can easily accumulate in low-lying areas such as basements and from there disperse to the ground floor areas of the home.
Which homes need a radon inspection/test done?
In countries with higher measurements of radon levels, continuous radon testing conducted by a professional inspector is recommended. Because the radon levels in homes are generally very low in Australia, a professional test is usually not needed. If you wish to measure the indoor radon concentration from within your home, you can hire a personal-use radon monitor and radon test kit from ARPANSA.
If you have any questions or particular concerns, get in touch with us!
Contact Inspect My Home
Inspect My Home is one of Australia’s largest and most trusted building and pest inspection companies. Our team of professional property inspectors are trained to carry out thorough pre-purchase property inspections, pest inspections and a variety of other services.
A comprehensive property inspection by an experienced professional will uncover any issues. It will help you make an informed decision based on the facts.