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What is radon?

  • Radon is a natural radioactive gas that enters buildings from the ground.
  • Indoor radon is the largest source of radiation exposure to the public.
  • Living or working in a building with high radon levels increases the risk of lung cancer.
  • Smoking increases the risk from radon considerably.
  • Radon in the home contributes to over 1,000 UK lung cancer cases each year.
  • High levels are more common in some areas of Scotland, including parts of the Orkney Islands.
  • The average radon level in UK homes is 20 Bq m-3 (becquerels per cubic metre of air).
  • The Action Level for radon in homes is 200 Bq m-3.
  • The Target Level for remediation is 100 Bq m-3.

Radon in homes in Orkney

Orkney Islands Council is working with the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to identify and reduce high levels of radon in homes with the support of the Scottish Government.  NHS Orkney also supports the programme, as prolonged exposure to high radon levels increases the risk of lung cancer, especially for smokers or ex-smokers. Exposure to the combination of radon gas and cigarette smoke creates a greater risk for lung cancer than either factor alone.  The majority of radon related cancer deaths occur among smokers and ex-smokers.

Although the testing is voluntary, by taking part you will discover if you and your family are at risk from radon in your home.  You will help us to assess the health risk in your area and to ensure that any money spent on radon reduction is used appropriately. The overall data will be analysed to provide information on how to reduce the health risk from this proven cause of lung cancer.


The risks applying to workplaces are similar to those applying to private homes and employers have a statutory duty to protect workers from exposure to radon. Details of responsibilities under Health and Safety Legislation, and related issues, are available in Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Publication ‘Radon in the Workplace’, which can be accessed via the link in the 'Related Sites' section of this page.

New buildings

Special provisions apply to the protection of new buildings in radon affected areas and Building Regulations currently require building works to include appropriate measures to prevent potential health risks according to the underlying risk in the area. For more information, click on the Building Standards situated in the 'Related Links' section of this page.

Radon testing

The radon maps do not show what the radon level is in any particular building and householders/owners will have to judge what action to take in the light of the general level of risk in the area. This might include general public health precautionary measures such as stopping smoking (as the risk is greater for smokers) or ensuring adequate ventilation. Beyond that, the first step is to measure the actual level of radon in the building. Only then can the householder/owner judge the degree of actual risk and what specific measures are required, if any.

  • Testing is easy and everything is done by post.
  • Two small radon detectors are sent, put in place for three months and returned for analysis.
  • Full instructions come with the test kit.
  • The result, with an explanation and advice on the next step, is sent by letter.
  • Remedial measures, if needed, are generally simple and effective.
  • Invitations to special local information events will be sent to you if you need to remedy.

How do I purchase a test kit?

For the latest cost and for details of how to obtain a radon test kit, see the Health Protection Agency links under the  'Related Sites' section of this page.

Further Information

Orkney Islands Council

Telephone: 01856873535 and ask for Environmental Health.

Email: Contact us by email by clicking here.


Link to the UKradon website is located in Related Sites.

Telephone: 01235 822 622

Email: Contact UKradon by email by clicking here.

The Building Research Establishment

Link to the Building Research Establishment website is located in the 'Related Sites' section of this page.

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