What to Do About Radon

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ December 25, 2009

In thinking about internal pollutants and dangers in the home for an earlier blog this week, I thought you Do It Yourselfers might benefit from a talk about radon. There are a great many false notions about this toxic gas and whether you need your home inspected. So I went straight to the source: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to the EPA one out of 15 homes has elevated radon levels.

The real culprit in radon home pollution is radioactive gasses in the soil beneath your home. Radon is released in gas, which filters up through the soil and sifts through gaps and cracks in the building materials, through walls and floors, between spaces in pipes and conduit, or cracks in your walls. Occasionally radon can enter your home through the water supply.

Radon's principal threat is that it decays and, when inhaled, the decayed particles of Polonium, Lead, and Bismuth lodge in your lungs. There are many studies that link these inhaled decay particulates to lung cancer. Radon.com has a click-able map of the states where you can view overall levels associated with your community. However, the EPA recommends personal testing because community levels may not be a true indicator of your own existing conditions.

Testing for RadonDetermining whether your radon levels are acceptable or whether you need to take remedial action is a straightforward process. You can purchase a home test kit to sample short-term radon levels. The kits take samples for up to 90 days. Short-term test devices are marketed by types that include:

    • Charcoal canisters

    • Alpha tracks

    • Electret ion chamber

    • Continuous monitors

    • Charcoal liquid scintillation detectors

    Short-term tests can let you know where you stand right now, but do not show the levels in your home over the course of a year. Long-term test kits remain in your home beyond 90 days. Average indoor radon levels are around 1.3 pCi/L. The EPA suggests that if your short-term results weigh in at 4 pCi/L or higher, you immediately initiate a long-term test or contact a specialist.

    Certified or licensed radon mitigation contractors can recommend solutions to protect and retrofit your home against radon gases. The mitigation can include changes to your foundation or subfloor, special ventilation or filtration systems, and metering by a manometer that tracks pressure on filtration fans and pipes.

    If you're going to have your home inspected for any suspected problem, follow our guide to make sure you ask the right questions.

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