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What is Radon?

Tuesday, January 24th by Kelly Maeser


What is Radon? - Image 1Basics of Radon

Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, naturally occurring radioactive gas. It's formed from the decay of uranium and thorium, found in small amounts in most rocks and soils. Radon gas can seep into buildings through cracks and other openings in the foundation. It can also be present in well water. Outdoors, radon exposure is rare as radon gas rapidly disperses into the air. Radon exposure is most common inside homes, schools, and workplaces. 

 

What Radon Levels are Dangerous 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends taking action to reduce radon levels in your home if they measure 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. This is the level at which the EPA suggests you take steps to reduce your exposure to radon. However, any level of radon in the home is a potential health risk, and it's always a good idea to take steps to reduce radon levels as much as possible. Long-term exposure to radon can cause lung cancer. When you hear the term radon levels, this refers to the amount of radon present in a given area (generally your home). They measure the levels in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). There is no safe level of radiation/radon exposure. 

 

Where is Radon Most Commonly Found 

Geographically, high radon levels can be high anywhere, but some regions have much higher rates of radon than others. In the United States, the highest levels are in the northeastern, midwestern, and western regions. High levels are also in certain areas of Canada, such as Ontario and Quebec. 

Radon seeps into buildings through cracks and openings in the foundation and then becomes trapped in the lower levels of the building. The highest concentration of radon gas is in the lower levels, like basements or crawl spaces. Radon has been found on other levels of homes and buildings because radon gas seeps in through well water and is present in small amounts in the air. 

 

What Does Radon Do to Humans 

Radon gas becomes trapped indoors after it enters buildings through cracks and other holes in the foundation. When you breathe in radon gas, radioactive particles can get trapped in your lungs. Over time, these radioactive particles increase the risk of lung cancer. It may take years before health problems appear. Exposure to high levels of radon gas can be dangerous. There is an increased risk of lung cancer in homes with high radon levels. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Radon is the leading environmental cause of all cancers. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. 

Many homeowners choose to install a radon mitigation system to help lower the radon level, protecting themselves and their families. Radon mitigation systems reduce the levels of radon gas inside homes by circulating radon gas back outside.

 

How Do You Know Radon Gas is Affection You 

Symptoms of radon poisoning are similar to many other health conditions like; coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and persistent chest infections. For many people, radon poisoning symptoms don't appear until you have the beginning signs of cancer.

Home or business radon testing is the only way to know if you've been exposed to high radon levels on a regular basis. If the levels are high, you can take action by installing a radon mitigation system. Also, see your doctor if you have any symptoms of radon poisoning, and let them know your home tested high for radon gas.

 

How to Reduce Radon in Your Home 

There are two ways to test; an at-home DIY test or testing performed by licensed and certified Radon Measurement Specialists. The latter is the most accurate short-term radon test available. Professional testing typically provides a precise radon level reading in about 48 hours. When used correctly, DIY testing gives accurate results. However, you may need to do several DIY tests before you're confident in the results. Professional radon tests are usually faster and more accurate than Do It Yourself kits. If you already know you have high radon levels, your local National Radon Defense dealer will provide you with a free Structural Analysis and Mitigation System estimate.

 

How is Radon Reduced

There are several ways to reduce radon levels in a building: 

 

Sub-slab Depressurization: This method involves installing a pipe and fan system under the slab or floor of the building to create suction and draw radon gas out from under the foundation and vent it to the outside.

Seal cracks and openings: Sealing cracks and openings in the foundation and walls can prevent radon gas from entering the building. This should be done by a professional, as it requires specialized materials and techniques.

Drain tile suction: This method is similar to sub-slab depressurization. It's applied to houses with a crawlspace. A pipe and fan system is installed around the perimeter of the crawlspace to draw radon gas out and vent it to the outside.

Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) systems: This method uses an HRV system to bring fresh air into the building while exhausting an equal amount of stale air to the outside. It's most effective in reducing radon levels in buildings with very tight construction.

Water treatment: If radon enters the building through the water supply, it can be removed by installing a water treatment system. 

In some cases, more than one mitigation method is used to reduce radon levels throughout a home or business. With proper care and maintenance, radon mitigation systems last quite a while.

 

Common Myths About Radon 

  1. Radon testing is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. Radon testing is easy. You can test your home yourself or hire a qualified radon testing company. Either approach takes only a small amount of time and effort.
  2. Homes with radon problems can't be fixed. There are simple solutions to radon problems in homes. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs.  
  3. Radon only affects certain kinds of homes. Radon can be a problem in homes of all types: old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements, and homes without basements. Local geology, construction materials, and how the home was built are among the factors that can affect radon levels in homes. 
  4. Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country. High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know your radon level is to test. 
  5. A neighbor's test result is a good indication of whether your home has a problem. It’s not. Radon levels can vary greatly from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it. 
  6. Radon gas is only a problem in homes with basements. Radon gas is in all types of homes, regardless of whether it has a basement or not. 
  7. Opening windows will reduce radon levels. Opening windows will not significantly reduce radon levels. A proper mitigation system is needed to lower the radon levels. 
     

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer when inhaled over a long period of time. Testing for radon is the only way to know if a home or building has elevated radon levels, and steps should be taken to reduce radon levels if they are found to be 4 pCi/L or higher. Sealing cracks and openings in the foundation, increasing ventilation, and installing a radon mitigation system are all effective ways to reduce radon levels in the home or building.