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 home owners and when should you have a radon inspection conducted?
In this article we aim to arm home owners, 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?
Radon is a colour, taste and odorless radioactive gas that’s naturally occurring in the ground. It’s a byproduct of uranium decay, which is usually found in rocks and soil.
The main reason people should avoid coming into contact with the 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 or concentrated levels of radon this is something to be aware of as it poses a number of health risk to humans.
What are the health risks?
Sadly, in the U.S radon gas is the second leading cause to lung cancer, exceeded only by cigarette smoking. The risk of developing lung cancer from radon exposure depends of the level of radon consumed over time; the higher levels of radon in the air we breathe, the bigger the risk to develop lung cancer and other respiratory issues, such as cough, pain or tightness in the chest, hoarseness, or trouble swallowing.
Correspondently, the longer we breathe in the 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 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. Even better news is that according to a 1990 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 worlds indoor average. This means the radon risk is considered “of minimal concern to health”.
Where can you find radon in Australia?
In Australia, naturally occurring radon is well below the world wide average. However, radon can always be found in the air we breathe. The concentration of radon gas is higher indoors than outdoor as buildings have the effect of trapping radon. Radon levels are also dependent on the type of house and its ventilation. The gas is generally more concentrated in homes with little ventilation.
Subfloor rooms, especially totally underground, usually trap additional levels of radon that would normally be allowed to dissipate harmlessly to 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 radon levels a continuous radon testing conducted by a professional inspector is recommended. Because the levels of radon gas 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 meter and radon test kit from ARPANSA.
If you have any questions or a particular concern, 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 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.