You may or may not have heard of radon. Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil, rock, and sometimes water. When uranium is broken down, the gas releases into the air. It causes health problems when the gas accumulates indoors to high levels. Radon in the home is not something that people can detect on their own, as the gas is odorless.
The Danger of Radon Gas
The main danger of radon is lung cancer. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking cigarettes. Smokers who live in a home with high levels of radon gas are nine times more likely to get lung cancer.
Radon in the Home
The amount of radon gas that naturally occurs in the outdoor air is not considered harmful. However, when it’s concentrated in the home it can cause health problems. Radon gas can also build up in a home that has limited ventilation and is tightly sealed. Some areas of the country, like Iowa, Southeast Pennsylvania, many western states, and the Appalachian region have higher soil concentrations, but radon can be concentrated inside buildings anywhere. It seeps up through cracks in the floors and walls or gaps around pipes and wires.
Testing for Radon in the Home
Short-term testing for radon gas takes between 2-90 days, depending on the equipment used. Doors and windows need to be kept closed during testing to get the most accurate measurement. Radon levels do tend to vary from one day to the next, as wind, variations in soil moisture, and even snow cover can affect the amount of gas in the air. This is why long-term testing is best to get an accurate fix on radon exposure. These tests take measurements for 90 days up to one year.
If test results measure 4 picoCuries (pCi/L) per liter, the EPA recommends that steps should be taken to reduce the levels of radon. Some steps include caulking any foundation cracks and other openings. Covering a sump pump with an airtight cover is another remedy. Cover the soil in crawl spaces with polyurethane plastic sheeting, firmly attached to the walls. A radon mitigation system should also be installed that ventilates the gas outdoors.
Do I Need a Radon Test?
Since radon in the home is impossible to detect without equipment, how will you know whether you need a test? Test any home you are seriously considering buying. If you live in a home that has never been tested, schedule a radon test. Also, if you perform a renovation like installing new windows, have the home tested afterward.
Now that you know about radon gas, you also know you can do something about it. Testing is the first step. You may not have a problem, but if you do, you can’t do anything about it unless you know about it. Just making a phone call to a professional radon tester will get you started.