Radon is best known for being an odorless gas that's literally invisible. However, there is a concern about high levels seeping into your home in some areas of the country. It is toxic and can cause health problems after prolonged exposure.
How do you prevent radon from entering your home? Before you can get into prevention methods, you must understand:
- What is radon?
- Is radon hazardous?
- How does radon get into your home?
- The premise behind radon testing
- How do you prevent radon from entering your home?
Stop panicking and take off the radiation suit. Instead, keep reading to learn about radon and how to prevent it from entering your home.
What is Radon?
Radon is a byproduct of the breakdown of uranium & other radioactive elements. As these elements break down, radon gas is released into the surrounding soil, rock, and water. Eventually, it makes its way into the air.
When it's released into the air, radon appears as an odorless, colorless gas. However, radon itself can break down into a solid radioactive element known as radon progeny. These particles attach themselves to other small particles, such as dust, keeping the material from being completely disbursed into the air.
In an outdoor setting, radon is not harmful. It disperses rapidly and, therefore, isn’t concentrated enough to cause health issues. Indoors, however, is another matter.
Is Radon Hazardous?
The problem is that while radon is harmless in an outdoor setting where it can disperse into the atmosphere, it is a radioactive gas. When levels rise within your home, it can be hazardous to health. As a result, your home is often closed off from the free-flowing outside air, allowing levels to build up rather than disburse.
Increased radon amounts can cause an increased risk for the development of lung cancer. Combine radon exposure with cigarette smoke and you've got yourself one horrific problem. According to Cancer.org, those who live in a home with high radon levels and cigarette smoke have a greater risk of developing lung cancer than those that contend with only one contaminant.
How Does Radon Get Into Your Home?
As radon is found in the air, it might make you wonder how levels in your home can rise without the windows and doors being open. However, since it is a gas released from the soil, it doesn’t require a large opening. In fact, the contaminated air can enter in several ways:
- Exposed soil
- Joints between the floors and walls
- Cracks in foundation
- Loose-fitting pipes
- Sump pumps
The most common source is when the radon seeps through the sump pump or cracks in your home’s foundation. Unfortunately, it can get through cracks so tiny, you may not even notice the issues before discovering high radon levels.
Despite the most common path being the foundation, sometimes radon comes in from a home’s water supply. It is usually due to the water supply being drawn from a well on the property.
How Do You Test for Radon?
Concerned there is a high level of radon in your home? First, you should have the air quality tested to check the levels. You can purchase home radon tests and collect a sample yourself by following the included directions. However, hiring a radon testing company to do this step for you might be a bit easier and more accurate.
According to Howstuffworks.com, there are two types of radon testing devices, either active or passive. Active devices require electrical power to monitor the air quality in your home. Generally, these types of devices are used by professionals and work continuously over the testing period.
A passive device requires no power to operate during the testing period. These tests trap radon and progeny particles for a set period. Once the testing is complete, the device is analyzed in a lab. Passive devices include alpha track detectors, charcoal liquid scintillations, electret ion detectors, and charcoal canister detectors.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers a safe level to be "between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L." Therefore, anything over a level of 4 pCi/L should be fixed to eliminate radon leakage and lower the inside levels.
How Do You Prevent Radon From Entering Your Home?
First, you must seal off any cracks or holes where the radon may be leaking inside. This includes making any foundational repairs, fixing drain pipes, or repairing your sump pump.
Once all the problem areas are sealed, you need to add a radon mitigation system to your home. You should start with a gas-permeable layer of gravel underneath your home. If your home sits on a slab, this step may not be feasible and should have been added before the house was built.
However, a gas-permeable layer of gravel is not used for homes with crawl spaces. Instead, plastic sheeting is used to cover the dirt floor of the crawlspace. This layer will help to trap some of the radon coming out of the ground.
With the ground under your home sealed, you need a way to vent air out of your home. This is accomplished with a vent pipe. It is a 3 to 4-inch PVC pipe running from the gas-permeable layer through your home to a vent on the roof. To help move the soil gases, you may need a fan that helps to pull it out of the ground and through the pipe.
Having radon in your home is most certainly hazardous. Understanding where it comes from and how it infiltrates is the first step to mitigating it. As one of the more toxic airborne gases, you need to test your home. If the levels exceed 4 pCi/L, it's best to reach out for assistance so the chemicals can be removed, thus preventing future problems from occurring.