Effects of Radon Gas in Your Home

All homeowners should be aware that the effects of radon gas in your home can lead to serious health issues.

Although radon gas has not reached its pinnacle in the eyes of public safety awareness, it should.

According to the World Health Organization, radon causes 15% of all lung cancer cases in the world. It is the second leading cause behind cigarette smoking and affects both smokers and non-smokers.

This should be a real eye opener because it is preventable. Our homes are the main source of radon and are responsible for up to 50% of all exposure. It can be found in the earth and rocks beneath and around the home, in wells and building materials.

So how does radon get in?

Radon most often enters the home through openings and cracks in the walls and floor of the foundation. It can then make its way to the living spaces. More danger exists if there is a finished basement space where family members gather.

In addition to just creeping in, we actually can increase the amounts of radon in our homes by creating negative indoor air pressure. When a house is very airtight and bath or kitchen exhaust fans are used, we take air out of the home and literally can be sucking air from the earth to replace it. If the house is above a high radon content area, the air could be replaced with radon polluted air.

The effects of radon gas on a person's health are clear. Even at low rates, prolonged exposure in the home can cause lung cancer. It is also responsible for triggering allergies and asthma in children.

Like carbon monoxide, radon is an invisible, colorless and tasteless gas. The EPA recommends homeowners mitigate radon when the readings are in the 2 pCi/L to 4 pCi/L (pico Curies per Liter) range. The average home readings are about 1.3 pCi/L.

Testing for Radon

If you are ready to test your home for radon, you can order a test kit from a qualified lab or provider. You can also hire a registered professional to do the test for you. Often times, home inspectors offer this type of service if not you may contact your local EPA office for more information.

There are several types of tests available including passive and active units. Passive units need no electrical power and include charcoal canisters, charcoal liquid scintillation, electric ion chamber and alpha-track detectors.

All are available at local home centers, hardware and drug stores. They also can usually be ordered by phone or mail.

Active units do require power and are usually not readily available as the passive units. They include continuous radon and continuous working level monitors and should be performed by a professional.

If you conduct the test yourself, be sure to read all instructions carefully so as to not interfere with the proper detection. levels. Always be sure to record the dates and immediately package and ship back to the lab once the test is completed.

Radon Mitigation

To combat the effects of radon gas, start by sealing all cracks in basement walls and floors. There are products sold specifically for this purpose and can be purchased at hardware and home improvement centers. This will help to reduce the chance of radon seeping in to your home.

This is not a method that will totally lower your radon to an acceptable level if it is already too high. Other mitigation techniques will be necessary to achieve that.

According to the EPA; the four most common forms of mitigation for homes with full basements are sub-slab suction; drain tile suction, sump hole suction, or block wall suction. Here is their brief description of each.

Sub-slab suction - is the most common and usually the most reliable radon reduction method. One or more suction pipes are inserted through the floor slab into the crushed rock or soil underneath.

Drain tile suction - Drain tiles or perforated pipe are used to direct water away from the foundation of the house. Suction on these tiles or pipes are often effective in reducing radon levels.

Sump hole suction - Often, when a house with a basement has a sump pump to remove unwanted water, the sump can be capped so that it can continue to drain water and serve as the location for a radon suction pipe.

Block wall suction - Block wall suction can be used in basement houses with hollow block foundation walls. This method removes radon and depressurizes the block wall, similar to sub-slab suction. This method is often used in combination with sub-slab suction.

For an effective and preferred method for houses with crawl spaces, the EPA recommends a sub-membrane suction technique. This technique requires covering the earth’s floor with a high-density plastic sheet. A vent pipe and fan are used to draw the radon from under the sheet and vent it to the outdoors. For more information on Radon, click on the link below for a great free resource available from the EPA.

"A Citizen's Guide to Radon: The Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your Family From Radon".

Click here to find additional resources including a contractor check list. Radon Contractor List

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