Many Americans are unaware radon is a health hazard. However, the EPA estimates elevated radon levels affect 1 in 15 U.S. homes.
We’ll explore what radon is, its health risks, and how you can identify and lower radon in your home.
Radon is a radioactive gas released by the natural decay of uranium. Since uranium is universally present in the earth’s crust, uranium and radium are in nearly all soil, rock, and water on earth.
Environmental exposure to radon is not ordinarily a cause for concern. Issues arise because buildings can trap and concentrate radon to a hazardous level that can cause cancer.
All major national and international organizations universally accept radon to be a human carcinogen; a wealth of studies and evidence support this conclusion. Moreover, radon causes an average of 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the U.S., making it the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
The extent to which radon gas seeps out of the ground and enters a home can vary, depending on several factors:
Radon can enter through cracks in floors, construction joints, gaps around service pipes, and cavities inside walls. It can silently build up to a dangerous level without any warning signs.
Radon is colorless, odorless, and does not produce any immediate symptoms in humans, making it nearly undetectable. So, a radon testing kit is the only way to measure radon in the home. You can purchase an affordable kit from home improvement stores. In addition, testing kits are occasionally offered for free at local health departments.
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). The average household radon level is 1.3 pCi/L, with the EPA encouraging mitigation strategies if indoor levels are 2 mCi/L or higher.
If you identify radon levels higher than 2 mCi/L in your home, there are a few steps you can take immediately. For example, opening windows and using fans to increase air circulation can temporarily dilute the radon. Additionally, using caulk to fill cracks in floors and walls may decrease the amount of radon that enters the home. However, while these steps can help, the most effective way to reduce radon is through a mitigation system.
The EPA recommends homeowners hire a certified radon mitigation contractor to reduce the radon level in their home rather than attempting a DIY fix. Without the proper equipment or technical knowledge, homeowners may inadvertently increase their radon levels, leading to higher mitigation costs in the future.
Methods to reduce radon levels generally focus on either preventing radon from entering the home or removing radon already present. Soil suction is one method: it extracts radon from below the home and releases it outside so it can be quickly diluted. In addition, other methods include sealing cracks in the foundation, pressurizing the lower level of the home to prevent radon from entering, and installing a heat recovery ventilator to dilute existing radon.
The best radon mitigation method for you will depend on a number of factors, such as location, environmental condition, and more. A certified contractor can help determine the best combination of treatments for you.
While radon doesn’t affect every home, it is a silent threat that can lead to serious health complications, regardless of the age or condition of the structure. Testing the air in your home can give you peace of mind.
If you do discover concerning results after testing, there are many effective mitigation options. With the help of a certified radon contractor, you can ensure your home is safe for many years to come.