Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas caused by the breakdown elements like uranium, thorium, and radium. This gas is colorless, odorless and flavorless, making it impossible to detect without proper testing. When large amounts of radon are inhaled, the risk of developing lung cancer significantly increases. In fact, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and accounts for nearly 21,000 deaths each year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 1 in 15 homes in the U.S. have high levels of radon that need to be reduced. Luckily, there is a solution. Radon testing is available and should a high concentration of radon be found in your home, there are steps you can take to mitigate it.
Radon in Air
As a gas, it’s natural for Radon to be found most commonly in the air. Radon can be found in homes of any size, age or area, although high concentrations of Radon are known to be found in the Northeast and upper Midwest. Radon seeps into your home through gaps in the foundation, walls or floors, as well as construction materials. Additionally, homes built on soil that has a high concentration of radioactive elements tend to have higher radon levels.
When radon decays, it releases radioactive particles into the. These particles are extremely hazardous to the lining of our lungs and have been proven to cause lung cancer.
The EPA measures radon levels in picocuries per liter (pCI/L) and recommends that homes with more than 4 pCI/L of radon be addressed immediately. While 4pCI/L should be addressed immediately, the EPA also says there is no level of radon that is safe and recommends that you install radon mitigation system, even if your radon concentration levels only measure 2 pCI/L.
The only way to determine the level of radon in your home is to have it tested. A Radon Test by a WIN Home Inspector is non-invasive and can be done quickly to provide you peace of mind. If radon is detected, there are several mitigation steps you can take to protect your home and family. You can also be proactive by sealing all cracks and openings in the foundation and installing a ventilation system in your home. Investing in these small steps can pay off greatly in the long run and help protect your family from lung cancer.
Radon in Water
In addition to the air, radon can also contaminate your water supply and those homes that use a private well are at an even greater risk. Homes on a public water supply have a reduced risk of radon contamination because that water is usually treated before reaching the home, however, it is still wise to have it tested.
Usually, radon that enters the home through the water source has a reduced risk of cancer and other dangerous side effects. The EPA estimates that indoor radon levels will increase by about 1 pCI/L for every 10,000 pCI/L of radon in water.
While radon in water poses a less immediate threat than radon in the air, water contamination can still lead to problems. If the radon levels in your water or water supply are high enough, the radon can seep into the soil or air where it can be inhaled and become dangerous.
Just like radon in the air, it’s impossible to tell if there is radon in your water without the proper testing. With radon concentration levels increasing, it is recommended that you schedule a Radon-in-Water Test every few years to ensure your water supply is still safe.
Who is At Risk for Higher Levels of Radon?
Radon is becoming increasingly present across the country and all homes should be tested, but there are certain areas and aspects of a home that have an increased risk of unhealthy radon levels.
Some regions are known to have higher radon levels than others. The Appalachian Mountains and Upper Midwest have higher levels, while the Southeast has lower levels. Check the EPA’s map to see if your home is at a higher or lower risk of radon. Even though radon concentration levels are tracked, it’s important to keep in mind that low risk areas do not guarantee that your house is risk-free from radon.
- Foundation Type:
Older homes with dirt floors in the basement are at a higher risk for radon contamination because they have no barrier to help protect the home from radon that rises from the soil. Exposed crawl spaces also allow radon to rise into living areas undetected, potentially creating an unhealthy environment.
- Foundation Damage:
Radon can seep through concrete, but foundation slabs and walls with cracks make it easier for extra radon gas to seep in.
- Other Construction Gaps:
Gaps in the construction of a home can make it easy for radon to enter. Be sure to carefully look at things like pipes, the foundation, wiring and the sump pump to make sure there are no gaps that radon can seep through
- Well Water:
Groundwater can also contain radon. If you rely on a well, have your water quality tested regularly for contaminants, including radon.
How Can I Mitigate Radon Contamination?
If radon is found in your home, don’t panic, there are plenty of steps you can take to mitigate the issue. Sealing cracks in your walls, floors and foundation can help reduce gas levels. In addition, you can get a radon mitigation system installed in your home. A radon mitigation system uses pipes and fans to remove the gas from beneath the foundation before it can enter your home.
The cost of a radon mitigation system typically costs between $800 and $1500, depending on your home’s design, size, foundation, construction quality, and climate, but the peace of mind it can provide is priceless.
Regularly testing for radon is critical for keeping you and your family safe and healthy in your home. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and the second leading cause of all lung cancer cases, but proper and frequent testing can go a long way to reduce that statistic.
If you are concerned about the presence of radon in your home, or haven’t had your home tested in a while, we strongly encourage you to reach out to your local WIN Home Inspector to schedule a Radon Test and a Radon-in-Water Test. If high levels of radon are found, your certified and trained home inspector can walk you through next steps for mitigation. Scheduling a Radon Test could save your life, don’t wait, call today.