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What is Radon?

Thursday, December 29th by Francine Maglione


What would you do if you knew there was an invisible gas in your home that had the potential to cause lung cancer in you or your family members? You would probably try to get rid of it as soon as possible. Although this invisible gas sounds like science fiction, it is very much reality. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, and it could be in your home right now.

Radon is the result of uranium decaying in soil. It is a radioactive gas that can travel upward through homes where it becomes trapped, builds up, and becomes a carcinogen. It cannot be seen, smelled or tasted, but it is responsible for 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. It is best to trust a professional radon mitigation specialist to rid your home of radon.

Radon is measured by picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The EPA recommends mitigating any building with a radon measurement at, or above 4.0 pCi/L. There are a number of methods contractors can use to lower radon levels in a home. There are some techniques designed to prevent radon from entering your home and others that reduce the current radon levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends methods that prevent radon entry entirely. Soil suction is one such method, as it draws the radon from below the house and vents it out through a pipe away from the house where it is quickly diluted. Other radon mitigation techniques include sealing, house/room pressurization, heat recovery ventilation, and natural ventilation.

According to the EPA, radon gas is approximately 7.5 times heavier than air, but is easily influenced by air movements and pressure. Forced air heating and cooling can distribute radon gas throughout an entire house. Discharging radon gas through a radon mitigation system above the roof is a surefire way to decrease concentration levels. Even at three to four feet from its discharge point, radon concentration begins to approach background levels. The EPA writes that the concentration of radon gas at the discharge point can be tens of thousands of picocuries per minute. The EPA prohibits ground-level discharge of radon because the gas could re-enter the house. Also, discharging at that level has proven to be dangerous to children, so discharging it through the roof is the safest and best way to mitigate radon.

In order to determine if radon mitigation is necessary on your home you must first conduct a radon test. There are do-it-yourself home test kits available on the market for homeowners to use but they haven't proven to be the most accurate. A professional radon mitigation contractor can get you more accurate results, and get them sooner than having to mail a DIY detector back to a lab and wait for the results. In some cases, buying or selling a house actually requires a certified professional to perform radon testing and mitigation services. So if you don't plan on staying in your home, it would be wise to get a professional radon test performed.

If you're curious about radon levels in your home, contact your local radon contractor. NRD dealers go through extensive training and certification to perform professional radon mitigation across the country.

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