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Housing and Commercial Construction – Potential Liability Report Identifies Risk

Author/Issuer: Cavity Tray Standards    Added:

New Radon Report Identifies Risk

This week (21st July 2009) new evidence has been released linking lung cancer risk with radon gas. It is understood the World Health Organisation and other bodies are reviewing and revising the action levels for radon in buildings.

Radon is an invisible colourless gas with no smell. It is emitted from the ground and can enter and accumulate within buildings. It cannot escape easily because modern construction is becoming more highly insulated. Window and door openings are also now being manufactured to standards that eliminate gaps and draughts. A sealed box approach to building is becoming the norm. 

Radon accumulation within a building is undesirable. It was previously declared that in excess of 2000 avoidable deaths per year occur in the UK because of radon gas. Measures must be taken to protect structures (and thus their inhabitants) from the effect of radon.

The extent of radon emission from the ground is measured in becquerels and the current action level for dwellings is 200 becquerels. This means if the level in a house exceeds 200 becquerels procedures should be taken to remove or minimise the risk. It is claimed exposure at 200 becquerels can be compared with receiving a chest x-ray (radiation) every couple of days.

In the workplace the action level is not 200 becquerels, but 400 becquerels. This is possibly because it is considered any individual will normally occupy any commercial property for only part of any 24-hour day? So based on an average working day of 8 hours, one might be exposed to the double figure of 400 becquerels for a third of every day.

But having a higher action level for commercial premises compared with domestic dwellings is ill advised? It first assumes the current domestic level (200) is acceptable, and then assumes twice as high a level is tolerable because one’s time within commercial premises will be limited. But commercial premises can include such structures as hotels, nursing homes, residential homes, boarding schools etc. Such buildings have occupancy levels of up to 24 hours every day so the two tiered action level approach is flawed. If a lower action level is being considered by the World Health Organisation it suggests the UK levels might soon change. Radon gas is present everywhere and it is only the extent that varies from area to area. It would seem appropriate to have just one revised lower becequerel figure, rather than two. A lower and safer action level that applies to all structures, regardless of function?

In the UK the Radon Council is responsible for promoting excellent guidance and understanding of radon issues and it has already identified this imbalance. The Council, of which Cavity Trays Ltd is a member is campaigning for the Building Regulations to tackle radon issues more thoroughly so recognised industry standards and levels of protection applied to structures are agreed and implemented. Such measures could so easily reduce the current exposure to risk in the UK. A risk that it is acknowledged is responsible for the deaths of a large number of people in the UK every year.

Cavity Trays of Yeovil designs and manufactures barriers, membranes and associated products for the control of radon in domestic, commercial and industrial buildings. A Company spokesman commented:

 ‘Developers have a duty of care. In the interests of health and safety and potential liability, we recommend structures always incorporate measures to protect the inhabitants from the effects of radon gas. In Ireland structures are required to have radon protection measures – and the qualifying documents form part of the property deeds. There is a need in the UK to regularise the currently inappropriate differing standards and action levels. Until this is done, individuals will be exposed to a higher risk than is necessary’.

Cavity Trays Ltd advises liaison with your Local Authority to determine exact requirements to satisfy the measures necessary when constructing on any form of contaminated ground. The Company operates a scheduling service and will be pleased to provide guidance including the provision of protective oversite membranes and linked with combined cavity tray radon barriers in exterior walls to comply with footprint protection requirements.

Issued by the Technical Department (Radon) Cavity Trays Ltd.

July 2009.

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