Radon is a naturally occurring element that off-gases from the earth’s crust, as well as part of the radioactive decay process of other radioactive elements. It’s also the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and smokers who live or work in a building with high radon levels experience much higher rates of lung cancer as well.
While it is dispersed effectively in an outdoor environment, radon is denser than air. That means it can be trapped inside homes, schools, businesses and other buildings if it seeps in from underground without being adequately ventilated back out again.
Note: Radon can also be found in drinking water. However, the majority of the risk in terms of human radon exposure and radiation sickness/cancer are linked to radon gas inhalation rather than ingestion.
Radon 101: Test, Take Action, and Re-Test
Here are things you should know about radon to prevent harmful exposure.
Some regions are more “radon rich” than others
While radon occurs everywhere and is considered a form of daily radiation exposure, some regions have higher levels of radon than others. You can view a map of the EPA’s Interactive Radon Zones By County.
However, most experts agree that homes, schools, and businesses test for radon annually – or bi-annually – just to make sure radon levels in the building are within the safe limits.
You can purchase an affordable home radon testing kit
You can purchase high-quality, home radon testing kits for $30 or less at your local home improvement store. To ensure you’re getting an accurate reading, the EPA recommends purchasing your kit through Kansas State University’s National Radon Program Services, where short term tests (2- 4-days) are just $15, and longer-term test kits (2 to 12-months) cost $25.
If cost is an issue, visit the EPAs pages regarding their various Radon Grant Programs.
Once testing is complete, you can return the test kit for analysis at no extra charge. If your home, school, or place of business has radon levels that exceed the EPA’s “safe limits” of 148 Bq/m3 (4 pCi/L) or less, you’ll be given instructions on how to proceed.
Hire a licensed, experienced service provider to mitigate radon issues
Mitigating unhealthy radon levels in a home requires a multi-step approach. Read the Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction, for detailed instructions and recommendations. Some of the steps required include:
- Sealing foundation cracks, openings, and leaks
- Installing a soil suction radon reduction system, which uses a pipe and fan system to vent radon out of the ground beneath your home and into the outdoors where it disperses naturally
- Creating a gas-permeable layer beneath the slab or flooring
To be on the safe side, it’s best to hire a professional who does this type of work for a living to make sure the measures you take are professionally completed and effective.
The EPA provides two agencies you can contact to locate an experienced radon professional in your area.
Toll Free: (800) 269-4174 or (828) 890-4117
Fax: (828) 890-4161
Email: National Radon Proficiency Program (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Speak to your HVAC contractor about whole-home pressurization and ventilation
The better ventilated your home is, the less likely you are to experience elevated radon levels. Speak to your HVAC contractor about whole-home pressurization and ventilation. This keeps radon moving, and pushes it on out of your home should it makes its way into your home through a basement and/or foundation.
You can also ask about installing a heat recovery ventilator, or HRV, also called an air-to-air heat exchanger. This additional layer of ventilation is another safeguard to prevent radon gas from settling in your home.
Ultimately, education, testing, and preventative measures are the key to keeping radon at safe levels in your home. If you find out your home has high levels of radon, start the conversation with your neighborhood and local community and rally the troops to protect themselves. Odds are you aren’t the only household or building on the block that requires remediation. The simple act of spreading the word and low-cost testing can truly save lives.
The team here at Lancs Industries dedicates our work to protecting employees and the public from unnecessary radiation exposure. Contact us to learn more.
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