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Homeowners Warned of the Dangers of Radon Gas Through Basement Excavations and Conversions

October 15th, 2015

A new study conducted by leading experts in the field of radon gas management has revealed that more than three quarters of Britons with home extensions built underground are not aware of the dangers surrounding the gas radon prior to having the work carried out on their property, despite it being the second leading cause of lung cancer in the UK.

In a bid to raise awareness of the dangers of undetected radon, a new study aimed at highlighting how low the awareness of the gas is amongst the British public has revealed that the vast majority of homeowners who’ve undergone basement excavations or dig-down home extensions/conversions were not made aware of radon prior to the work taking place.

The team at www.propertECO.co.uk, a leading centre of expertise in the field of radon gas control, commissioned a poll of a total of 2,943 UK homeowners aged 25 and over. Each participant owned their own home and those polled were spread across each region of the UK evenly in order to generate as valid a set of results as possible.

Individuals were initially asked if they had ever paid to have either a basement excavation or dig-down extension carried out on their current or previous properties. Whilst just 2% of those polled had undertaken a basement excavation, more than one tenth (11%) of respondents admitted that they’d converted an existing basement on a property into a habitable space. Of those who’d undergone a dig-down extension, almost three fifths (58%) lived in the London or South-East regions of the UK. The average cost of a dig down extension was revealed to be £81,000, and took around 16 weeks to complete.

Of those respondents who’d had either had a basement excavation or conversion, less than one quarter (24%) had been warned by the builder or contractor carrying out the work on their property about the possibility of radon being an issue, with the remaining 76% completely unaware of radon and the risks associated with long term exposure.

Of the homeowners polled that had never had an underground extension or conversion, less than two fifths (39%) of these individuals were aware that radon could be potentially lethal to humans living in a house with elevated levels, and that it can cause lung cancer. The remaining 61% confessed to researchers that other than knowing radon was a chemical substance, they had no idea of its dangers and implications.

The British Standard ‘code of practice’ that should be followed when completing below ground waterproofing (something which all basement excavations or conversions require), states that radon should be taken into account in the design. This requirement has been in place since 2009, meaning any homeowners who have had basement extensions created in the last six years should have been made aware of radon.

Martin Freeman, MD of propertECO.co.uk, made the following comments regarding the findings of the study:

“Time and time again we hear stories of individuals who are completely unaware of radon and its associated risks, until it’s too late. It comes as a worrying statistic that so many homeowners who’ve made the decision to build under their properties are not given the facts on the dangers of radon exposure, and it is disappointing that building professionals are themselves either unaware of the requirements for protection under the British Standard, or simply choosing to ignore them. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the ground and can enter properties. Long term exposure to high levels of radon can lead to lung cancer, and it is responsible for around 2000 lung cancer deaths in the UK every year.”

“Properties with basements are at increased risk, so it is very important that when new basements are being created, radon is taken into consideration to ensure a safe environment for the occupants. The only way to know if a building is affected is to carry out a radon test using a special detector upon occupation, which is why our team is so passionate about raising its awareness to homeowners up and down the UK. Basements can provide valuable extra living space and are an excellent way of extending a home, however they must be created in a way that ensures they are safe to occupy.”

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