What is Radon?
Most rocks contain trace amounts of the radioactive element uranium. As uranium decomposes or decays, radon gas is released into the surrounding soil. Once in the soil, the gas will eventually become airborne. It is both odorless and colorless and cannot be seen with only a visual inspection. Special tests must be performed for radon detection in the home.
How does Radon Enter the Home?
As radon is released from the soil, it can enter the home through cracks in the foundation, joints in the framing, or any other area where air seeps into the home. Because air pressure in a home is much lower than that of the surrounding soil, the gas will follow the path of least resistance into the home.
Though small traces of the gas may enter at any particular time, the gas can reach dangerous levels in a contained space. All buildings are susceptible to radon gas infiltration, but older homes are more likely to have high concentrations due to accumulation over the years. It is estimated that one in 15 homes in the US have high levels of radon.
The Health Risks of Radon
Radon is a carcinogen and has been known to cause or contribute to lung cancer. Studies suggest radon is responsible for more than 20,000 deaths annually. The resident of a home can unknowingly inhale the radioactive gas, which damages the cells and lung tissue and may cause cancer.
Radon Detection in the Home: How it Works
Often radon tests consist of a charcoal activated material to trap radon particulates in the air. Receptors are placed in various strategic locations in the home, such as the basement floor. The tester then measures the amount of radon collected. Radioactive substances are measured in curies. Other tests use an electrically powered tester that continuously monitors the radon level.
Radon tests will record the number of picocuries per liter or one trillionth of a liter. Though no radon level is fully safe, it is believed that reducing the level below 4 picocuries per liter could reduce the risk of radon-caused lung cancer by 50 percent.
Though home test kits are available, many choose to use a professional technician specifically trained in this area in order to get the most accurate result. If high levels of radon are detected, the technician can recommend repairs or remediation measures to bring the levels down.
Reducing the Risks of Radon Exposure
Once radon detection in the home is completed, those with high levels should work to have them reduced. Two common methods are preventing radon from entering the home and removing existing radon from the home. The first method consists of sealing cracks, joints, and other areas of entry.
The second method consists of drawing radon out of the soil and venting it to the outside air. It may also consist of sucking radon gas from drain tiles before entering the home. Repair costs are often comparable to other small to mid-range home repairs, and a specifically trained repair professional can provide reasonable estimates. Radon testing is well worth the cost and is essential to protect the health of your family!