The Hidden Dangers of Radon Beneath Your Home
Radon is a radioactive gas that can be found in the soil and rocks and groundwater that are situated under your home. As uranium decays it releases radon so it is present everywhere – not just in your home but in your office, your school, your workplace. It seeps in through the cracks in the building materials, from the foundations slabs, the cracks in walls or joints, gaps in pipes and empty space behind walls. The general way for radon to enter your home is through the soil but if you use well water, that is another potential source for this problem. It is a lower risk, but it can pose not just a risk from inhaling it through the air but the potential to ingest it while drinking it.
Radon is considered the second highest cause of lung cancer after smoking. If you are a smoker and you have high radon levels in your home, you are more at risk than others who do not smoke. The problem with radon is that it is undetectable from the human eye as it is colorless; it cannot be smelled because it is odorless; and it cannot be tasted because it has no taste. Once it gets inside a building, it continues to build up until it reaches levels that can be hazardous to your health.
So how do you know if you have radon in your home? Chances are that you do have radon in your home as it is reported that one in every three homes has some radon inside them. The real question is – how much? And is the level dangerous to your health?
Tests can determine this and can be done by you or by a professional qualified tester with the results being sent to a laboratory for testing. The Environmental Protection Agency has specific guidelines that are followed for accurate testing and if it is determined that you do have a level that puts you and your family at risk, then there are ways to reduce the radon level with a contractor that is qualified to do so.
It is becoming more and more common for home buyers or renters to ask for a radon test prior to the purchase or rental of a home. If you are anticipating the sale of your home and have never tested for radon, it might be prudent of you to do so now so that you will have certified test results available for the new buyer. This will give you the opportunity to remedy any radon problem if there is one so that when you are ready to sell, the sale will go more quickly. Whether or not you are selling a home or other property, it is important for your family’s health to consider testing for radon to determine if you do have a potential problem.
So what can you do to lower the radon levels in your home? Called a soil suction radon reduction system, a vent pipe with a fan is the usual method used to lower radon. It will pull the radon from underneath your home and send it outside through vents. It requires the installation of a pipe on the outside of the home or through the basement floors – if applicable, it has been found to be efficient as well as effective. There are other systems that can be used with houses that have crawl spaces underneath them. The correct system for your home will depend on the design of your home. If you are planning to have someone install a radon reduction system in your home, it is essential to use a contractor who has been state certified to do this type of work and is trained to ascertain the best method to correct your problem. These systems must be handled by a qualified specialist who is specially trained with the technical knowledge and skills necessary to understand the requirements.
If you have found that your water supply is contaminated with radon, it too can be remedied. Usually the radon is from a private well or a public system using groundwater. Two methods will solve this problem – one is a treatment that will remove the radon at the point of entry and the other is a less effective method that removes radon as it comes out of your tap. This method will not eliminate the problem nor reduce the risk as much as the other method.
If you are remodeling your home, it is a chance to add some inexpensive radon resistant techniques that will reduce the levels of radon in your home. Again, any repairs, renovations or treatments that you want to do to your home to reduce radon must be handled by experts knowledgeable in this area. Sealing cracks or openings in foundations or other building materials can make any radon reduction system work better and reduce the risk of radon levels rising.
Newer homes are being built to resist or deter radon from entering the home, but the cost to a builder can vary widely throughout the country so many builders may not automatically do these things unless you ask for them. Some of the radon resistant features may improve the home’s energy efficiency as they utilize the Model Energy Code or other similar codes which should provide better energy savings and lower utility bills. Some of these could include a vent pipe and a gas permeable layer beneath the slab with plastic sheeting under the slab to prevent radon from entering the home.
Some areas of the country are more prone to radon exposure than others. Defined by zones that are more susceptible to radon, zone 1 having the highest potential, you can check with your state radon agency to determine what zone you are in and whether you have a higher or lower potential for radon exposure. If buying a new home or a used home you should insist on a radon test.