A knock at the door this morning and two workmen appeared with notebook in hand. We are here to leave the Radon measuring devices, they explained. Having recently been alerted to this pending occurrence by Maria, who seems to know everything that is going on all the time, I nodded knowingly and welcomed them into the house. They strategically placed two small black plastic discs, one in front of me as I sit at the computer, the other in the boys’ bedroom. They look for all the world like cockroach traps, but they are in fact, Radon traps.
What exactly is Radon? I looked it up on a WHO fact sheet. It is a “chemically inert, naturally occurring radioactive gas without odour, colour or taste… produced from radium in the decay chain of uranium, an element found in varying amounts in all rocks and soil all over the world.” Importance? Simply this – it increases the risk of lung cancer, especially in smokers, who have a 25 fold increase in risk if exposed to excessive levels of Radon.
How to avoid it? More ventilation (a problem in a country where it is too cold to open the windows) and better protection from the ground.
So now we wait two months for the little black boxes to measure the nasty stuff and tell us whether we are at risk or not, and if the readings are too high I suppose we will have to move out while they rip up our floor, to seal us from the ground better.
How come I have never heard of this in Australia? I don’t know whether the levels are lower there, or whether it is just that we leave the windows and doors open a lot more and many houses are built up off the ground. But our visit today left me with a vaguely uncomfortable feeling that perhaps we were living on a radioactive time-bomb. An over-reaction, I’m sure!