Radon is a colorless, odorless, naturally occurring, radioactive noble gas that is formed from the decay of radium. It is one of the heaviest substances that remains a gas under normal conditions and is considered to be a health hazard. The most stable isotope, 222Rn, has a half-life of 3.6 days and is used in radiotherapy. While having been less studied by chemists due to its radioactivity, there are a few known compounds of this generally nonreactive element.
Radon is a significant contaminant that affects indoor air quality worldwide. Radon gas from natural sources can accumulate in buildings, especially in confined areas such as the basement. Radon can be found in some spring waters and hot springs.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, radon is reportedly the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking; and radon-induced lung cancer the 6th leading cause of cancer death overall. According to the same sources, radon reportedly causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States.
Should You Test For Radon In Your Home?
Most people don't think much about Radon, and yet Radon can have a major impact on their health and that of their families. That's because Radon can seep into homes and contaminate the air inside. That's a major reason for concern as Radon is a major cause of lung cancer, second only after cigarette smoking. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that there are over 21,000 deaths in the United States every year due to exposure to Radon. How are we getting exposed to Radon, and what can a homeowner do about it? Radon is a gas that is formed naturally when uranium in rock, soil and groundwater breaks down. The Radon gases then finds its way up to the surface. Unlike other forms of pollution or dangerous gasses, you can neither see nor smell Radon. Most of the time, Radon harmlessly dissipates into the atmosphere outdoors, as it has for millions of years, and it isn't a problem at all. It does become a problem when it finds its way into your house. How can that happen? In many ways. What happens is that the Radon gas in the soil under your home, it collects in the void and air spaces under the foundation slab and gradually enters the home. It can also enter through cracks in foundations or even through showers and drainage sumps. Most new homes have much better insulation than in the past, so the Radon gas becomes trapped indoors. So in this case, the better insulation and sealing actually works against you. What can be done to fix a home with a Radon problem? There are two basic ways to handle the problem. One of them is to install pipes that suck the Radon gas away from the spaces beneath the foundation and harmlessly expel it to the outside above the roof via an electric fan connected to exterior pipes. Another is to run the pipes inside the house or the garage so that the Radon is expelled outside above the roof. In this case, the electric fan is located in the attic, so the components of the system cannot be seen from the outside of the home. Both of these methods are referred too as Radon reduction or "mitigation" systems.
How do homeowners know whether or not their house is exposed to Radon? That's where Radon testing comes in. Testing for Radon is the ONLY way to tell if Radon is present in your home or not. Radon occurs all over the United States, so testing should be pretty much mandatory. Testing is fairly simple and can be done by qualified testing services that install a detection device and then examine the results after a few days. The house must be in a "closed house condition" for at least 12 hours prior to the test, and the test must last for a minimum of at least 48 hours, per EPA Protocol.This will reliably determine if the Radon levels in a home are high enough to require a Radon mitigation system. About one in every 15 homes in the US has excessive Radon levels, and Radon testing is mandatory in many states when you buy or sell a home. Even if it's not, given the potential health risks, it's foolish not to test one's home. This should also be followed if you have a private well for your water source. Radon can also be in you're drinking water. If testing reveals elevated Radon levels, a Radon mitigation system must be installed. Installation isn't difficult and it's a proven and effective technology, but it must be done right. There are many qualified mitigation system installers with certified and licensed technicians, so pick someone who's been in the business for a while to remove this potentially deadly threat from your home.
There are certain techniques that are used for almost every type of radon mitigation procedure. They include: Sub slab depressurization, SSD with a crawl space, sealing openings, and air exchangers.
Many homes have a Sub slab depressurization system, which uses a fan and PVC pipe to draw air from below the basement floor and then release it above the roof. The radon fan creates a vacuum under the basement floor. A hole is drilled through the basement slab. PVC pipe is then inserted into the slab and routed either through the house to an attic opening or routed to the outside. Either in the attic or outside, a fan is connected to the pipework to draw the Radon gas from under the basement slab and safely vent it to the atmosphere. There is literally no underground air entering the home when the fan is running.