Introduction to Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Radon cannot be detected by sight, smell, or taste and is estimated to cause 60 deaths per year in Northern Ireland. It can become a health risk when trapped indoors where it can build to high levels. Radon can enter a home or building from the soil through cracks in the floor and walls; and openings around floor drains and pipes.

Radon protection methods were first introduced into Part C of the Building Regulations (Northern Ireland) in June 1994. Although deemed-to-satisfy provisions are provided, no guidance on construction methods are incorporated within the appropriate Technical Booklet (“Technical Booklet C, Site preparation and resistance to moisture”, June 1994). The Department of the Environment in conjunction with the British Research Establishment in March 1997 produced a draft Technical Booklet to cover these regulations. This draft is currently out for consultation and is due to become part of the Building Regulations (England and Wales) at the beginning of 1998.

During the interim period, between June 1994 and March 1997, a number of Building Control (NI) advice notes and seminars were provided to fulfil the void left by the then new regulations. The draft Technical Booklet and the Building Control advice notes are based on the radon protection construction work undertaken in the South of England, where the highest indoor radon levels have been recorded within the United Kingdom.

The use of radon protection methods to dwellings in Northern Ireland is restricted to the Southeast corner where the National Radiation Protection Board has declared a radon `Affected Area’. Radon protection methods are used in a small fraction of new dwellings in Northern Ireland due to the location of the `Affected Area’. This location largely rural and is therefore remote from the large population areas of the providence.