Following the recent sequence of protests at Heathrow Airport and Central London, we have witnessed the rise of the Extinction Rebellion movement. Social media and news coverage has very much brought the debate on the unprecedented global climate emergency and the government’s inaction to implement changes to the forefront.
However and ironically so, maybe we should be looking closer to home or should I say within our homes.
Recent research into the amount of indoor radon concentrations in our homes suggests that the planet’s need to create more energy efficient living is also the trigger of increased radon-related cancer deaths.
As the battle continues to protect our environment and the future of our children, the furtive paradox is that the very energy efficient measures used to support this cause is generating an unknown and significant danger skulking within our homes.
What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas which is formed from minute amounts of uranium present in rocks and soil decays. We cannot see it, smell it or taste it. Radon levels in the air can be breathed outside but it is higher inside buildings in confined spaces.
Levels of contamination can build up as radon is drawn into buildings through cracks and gaps in the floor. Radon gas affects 1% to 3% of properties and is particularly prevalent in certain areas. Special equipment is required to detect its existence.
For more information about radon and details on those areas that are most at risk check out the Health Protection Agency’s website at www.ukradon.org.
With older homes in the UK undergoing retrofits, it would seem that we are united in the fight to combat climate change by being energy efficient. However, newly fitted double glazed windows are likely to suffer from an additional 67% radon pollution than properties with no recorded retrofit.
Loft and wall insulation retrofits are also likely to accrue 47% and 32% more radon levels respectively.
These types of retrofits are all very fitting in our bid to save and protect the environment and in many cases it can be more economical, but we need to consider the repercussion it might have on our health.
Radon is the second highest cause of lung cancer in the UK after tobacco claiming thousands of lives per year. Each year around 1,100 lung cancer deaths could be attributed to radon exposure in the home. The higher the radon, the longer the exposure; the greater the risk; higher for ex-smokers and significantly greater for current smokers.
What can be done?
The first step is to test your home for radon. This is done by measuring the levels. The process is quite easy and relatively cheap. If levels are high, look to reduce it. There are a number of remedial methods but you should consult a specialist before taking action.
Whilst energy efficiency is placed highly on the agenda, simple measures can protect our health.
There is no denying the delicate balance of endorsing environmental obligations to reduce carbon levels alongside the need to provide safe homes. In fact, the Labour Party has pledged to reduce the carbon footprint through warm homes for all. They are promising to invest millions to upgrade older homes with energy efficient alternatives like double glazing and roof insulation by 2022 if they are elected.
But at what cost? The lack of awareness on the dangers of radon and the impact on our health should not be ignored. The future of our environment is important but not at the cost of our health.
Website content note: This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of legal interest about current legal issues.