Does Your House Have a Radon Problem?
Exposure to high levels of radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer and leads to more than 20,000 deaths per year in the United States. Children may be more damaged by exposure to radon. The EPA estimates that as many as one in every five homes have high levels of radon. Even a new home with Radon Resistant New Construction may have unacceptably high levels of radon. With this amount of risk, it is important to find out if the air in your home is safe.
What is radon?
Radon is an inert gas released when uranium breaks down. It is odorless, colorless, and radioactive. Radon easily permeates most materials and is water-soluble. The gas is present in almost all soils and can leak into homes through gaps in flooring and around pipes, cracks in foundations, sump pumps, drains, and even through the pores in concrete.
How to tell if radon levels are too high in your house
Not only can you not detect the presence of radon with sight or smell, but there are also no physical symptoms that indicate exposure. And while some areas of the country have higher instances of homes with high radon levels, the problem has been found in every state. You can have high levels of radon in your home even if your next-door neighbors do not. Use a radon detection kit to measure the levels of radon in your house.
Two kinds of DIY test kits measure radon levels. A short-term test takes two days, and the more accurate long-term test takes 90 days. Test kits are available at hardware, home stores, and online. The kits are used to collect a sample of the air in your house, and that sample is sent off to a lab for testing.
To ensure your test is accurate:
- Follow instructions carefully
- Test in the lowest part of your house that you use. There is no need to test in a basement that has no living space
- Place the detector about 2-6 ft. above the ground.
- Do not move the radon detector during the test period.
- Seal the sample well before shipping.
Radon levels fluctuate a great deal, and any changes in air pressure or temperature can affect levels. Therefore, the longer test kit is more accurate. It will indicate an average measurement over 90 days. For even better data and to avoid having to buy multiple kits and wait for lab results, invest in a home radon detector. Most detectors will give you an initial reading in the first 24 hours and then will provide continuous monitoring of levels.
If any of these tests indicate a radon level close to or above 4 PC/L, you must take steps to reduce the radon in your home.
Lowering radon levels in your home
Fortunately, there are effective ways to lower the levels of radon in your home. Some you can do yourself, but it is best to consult a professional radon mitigation specialist. The specialist will recommend the best type of radon mitigation solution for your home.
Most solutions start with filling gaps and cracks between your house and the surrounding soil, increasing ventilation in your basement and covering exposed earth. The radon mitigation specialist will then recommend additional fans, pressurization systems and in some cases drain or sub-slab suction. The costs run between $500 and $2500.
After installing a radon mitigation system, it is essential to monitor your radon levels regularly. Again, this is a great reason to invest in a home radon detector.
If your house has high radon readings in the air, it may also be wise to test your water for radon. Water from a public water system that draws from a surface source such as a lake or reservoir is probably not a concern. But ask for quality tests of public water from ground sources.