Radon Gas

Are You breathing contaminated air?
What is radon and how can it affect your health?

What can you do to prevent or correct a radon gas problem in your home?

What about testing?

Let's look at some common questions about radon gas, and what you can do as a homeowner to minimize or correct an existing problem.

What is Radon Gas?

Radon is an odorless, tasteless, invisible gas.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is a cancer causing, radioactive gas.

The Surgeon General claims radon exposure as the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer ( smoking being #1).

If a person smokes in addition to high levels of radon, the risk of lung cancer is especially high.

Where Does Radon Gas Come From?

Radon gas is the radioactive breakdown of uranium and radium in soil, rock and water. This gas can get into the air you breathe or in water that you drink. In addition, heated water (such as in the bath or shower) can increase the amount of the gas breathed in unknowingly.

The potential for radon problems depends on numerous factors including how your home is constructed, your source (and treatment) of water, and whether your home sits upon uranium and radium-bearing rock.

Radon gas can actually be pulled into a home from the soil when air pressure inside is lower than that of the soil. This problem may result from using exhaust fans such as are found in kitchens and bathrooms. Furnaces or fireplaces may also affect pressurization.

Lung cancer now surpasses breast cancer as the number one cause of death among women. -EPA.gov

Other EPA facts:

* Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.
(About 2900 of these are in people who have never smoked.)

* Radon gas is the #1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

What about Radon Testing?

Since no "safe level" of exposure to radon has been set, and since one home may not have a radon gas problem while the home next to it may, testing is advised for all homeowners.

Homes have become "tighter" because of energy efficiency concerns, so the potential for problems may be even higher, depending on ventilation factors, pressurization problems, etc.

The average concentration of radon in the outdoor air is .4 pCi/L.

The EPA has set an "action level" of 4 pCi/L or higher. If your reading is this high, they recommend that you remedy the problem as soon as possible.

As with any potentially toxic gas, children may well be more susceptible than adults.

There are numerous inexpensive radon tests that you can purchase yourself, or hire a professional to administer.

The cheaper tests are more rapid with results, but are not as accurate. These are like taking note of a "spot in time". Since seasonal changes along with other factors, may change the readings, these tests will need to be repeated.

Among the most common are the short term (for rapid results) activated charcoal canister and the long term alpha track detector.

The continuous radon monitor, although more expensive, is also more accurate. A professional can install this and monitor it as well.

You can even purchase an EPA approved radon detector that operates similar to a smoke detector or Carbon Monoxide detector.

Water testing (particularly wells) should be done by a test kit that meets EPA standards , or by a certified contractor. These tests should also be repeated. Remember that not only might you be exposed through drinking the water, but through bathing and showering as well (with the potential to inhale much more than you may be drinking).

Learn more about radon testing from the Environmental Protection Agency

Every new home should be tested for radon
by the owner after occupancy.

Pre-Construction Practices

The goal of radon-resistant construction is to create, as much as possible, a complete barrier between the living space and the ground.

Sealing entry points into the home is critical.
Improving house ventilation is also important.

Radon-resistant construction is becoming more popular, and is an excellent selling feature for your home. The cost for outfitting a home with a radon mitigation system pre-construction is minimal.

Retrofitting a home that already has a problem will cost
much more.

This might be a classic case of "pay me now, or pay me later." The peace of mind in having such a backup system in place may be priceless.

For More Information:

EPA Hotline: 1-800-SOS-RADON

EPA's Citizen Guide to Radon

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