Everything You Need to Know About Radon
What is Radon?
Radon is a chemical element with symbol Rn and atomic number 86. It is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Testing is the only way to know the level of exposure in a home.
How does Radon enter homes?
The air pressure inside a home is usually lower than the pressure in the soil around a home’s foundation. Due to this difference in pressure, the home acts like a vacuum, drawing radon into the home through foundation cracks and other openings. Radon also may be present in well water and can be released into the air within the home when water is used for showering and other household uses. In most cases, radon entering the home through water is a small risk compared to radon entering the home through the soil. In a small number of homes, the building materials — such as granite and certain concrete products— can give off radon, although building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves.
What are the health risks?
According to the National Academy of Science’s Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VI) Report, radon is a carcinogen, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Radon is responsible for approximately 15,000 lung cancer deaths per year and about 15% of the lung cancer count worldwide. The risks of developing lung cancer are much higher in individuals who smoke rather than in those who do not.
What is a safe level of Radon?
There is no such thing as a safe level of Radon. The levels of Radon are measured in pCi/L (Pico curies per liter of air). A curie is the measurement of radioactivity in one gram of radium. The lower the pCi/L in a home, the lower the risk of health problems. The indoor levels of radon should never exceed the outdoor levels.
Can Radon Get in Water?
How do you test for Radon?
Radon tests can be completed either by a homeowner using a “do-it-yourself” kit, or a professional service-both of which must be approved by the EPA. We recommend all windows and doors be closed for at least 12 hours prior to testing and that the radon detector be placed in the lowest area of the home furthest away from any exterior doors. Home testing devices should be left undisturbed for 48-96 hours. We leave ours for a minimum of five days.
Radon Exposure Levels
What kind of devices are used for testing?
We use a small, electric, handheld device that we leave in a house for at least 5 days to test the radon levels. Once this is complete, we will print out a report for the homeowner regarding what levels of radon are in their home.
How can Radon be reduced form a home?
The level of radon in a home can be reduced by preventing entry into a home or by removing it once it has already entered a home. The solution to reducing the levels of radon in a home involves active ventilation either in the basement or crawlspace (if a home has neither a basement or a crawl, the lowest part of the home will be used). During the ventilation process, we use radon evacuation systems, which we install ourselves.
There are two types of radon evacuation systems:
- Slab Systems – This system is installed in the slab on grade homes. To install this system, we locate an area home where we can remove a section of concrete and dig a hole about 2 feet deep. We then install a 4 inch piece of PVC pipe and drill holes below the slab line on the pipe. Once the holes have been drilled in the pipe, we fill the hole with gravel and re-pour the cement. Once the cement has been poured, we direct a radon fan out the side of the structure with a dryer vent. *Exhaust must be at least 12 feet from all doors and windows.
- Crawl Systems – This system is the most common. To install this system, we must snake perforated drain pipe through the crawl space, then hook it to the radon fan and direct it out of the exterior foundation wall. We then install a sealed moisture barrier over the perforated pipe and seal plastic to the foundation wall with either silicone or construction adhesive. Finally, we tape all seams with vinyl tape. *Exhaust must be at least 12 feet from all doors and windows.
Note: Every house is different. If we cannot get at least 12 feet away from all doors and windows, we can run an exhaust pipe. The exhaust pipe would be 16 inches past the fascia with 3 or 4 inch PVC pipe. We must install two 90 degree PVC pipes on the top of the structure that way the opening will face directly downward.