Figures from Basement Waterproofing Association member, PropertECO have highlighted a lack of awareness in homeowners of the potentially deadly dangers of radon in basement conversions.
The Somerset-based company specialises in reducing levels of the harmful gas in buildings – a risk that is heightened in properties with basements. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is present in the ground, and is the UK’s second leading cause of lung cancer.
The study polled nearly 3,000 UK homeowners aged 25 and over, and demonstrated the popularity of basement conversions with residents of London and the South East, where land prices are high and above-ground developments severely restricted. Approximately three out of five respondents who had commissioned dig-down basements came from this region.
While only two percent of those polled had undertaken basement excavations from scratch, the figure for conversions of existing underground spaces stood significantly higher, at round 11%.
The most alarming result showed that, of those who had had any kind of basement work carried out, just 24% had been warned by their builder or contractor about the dangers of radon and its potential presence in their home. A British Standard ‘code of practice’ pertaining to waterproofing – a ‘must’ for any kind of basement – was introduced in 2009, stating that radon mitigation should always be accounted for in the design. Therefore, any homeowners with basement conversions started within the last six years should have been informed from the outset.
PropertECO’s Martin Freeman commented: “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.
“Long term exposure to high levels of radon can lead to lung cancer, and it is responsible for around 2,000 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.”
PropertECO is just one example of the companies of varied expertise that make up the Basement Waterproofing Association. To learn more about its work, visit the PropertECO website, and to find specialist companies associated with basement waterproofing, visit the BWA’s find a member page, which shows on a map those closest to you.