Radon, a noble gas is considered a health hazard at high levels. It is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas.People are exposed easily to radon gas, which comes naturally from the earth. It can be easily inhaled, accumulated in buildings, especially in low areas such as basements and crawl spaces. Radon can also occur in groundwater.However, the toxicity caused by radon can be reduced through testing. You will get to learn how by the end of this article.
Radon Gas Symptoms
The following are the symptoms that one may be experiencing because of radon gas:
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood
- Chest pain
- Frequent infections like bronchitis and pneumonia
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
However, the above symptoms may be caused due to other health issues too. The only liable way to check for radon gas is through testing.
How Does Radon Gas Enter a House?
Radon gas can enter your home through the soil beneath, cracks in the foundation and walls, floor drains, pipes, and sump pumps. Houses are generally ventilated and heated which helps the radon to get indoors. A well that provides drinking water can also be a source of radon in your house.
Radon levels in the soil, pathways for radon to enter the home, and the driving force are the main causes for the incoming of radon gas. Air pressure differences act to drive radon into the home.
Health Risks Of Radon Gas
The health effects of radon gas have been in light since the 1940s. The risks due to its exposure and the measures to control it are widely discussed over the time.
The most common health effect observed is radon-induced lung cancer. Epidemiological studies confirm that radon in houses increases the risk of lung cancer in the general population. Other health effects of radon have not consistently been followed up. The radon gas when inhaled causes damage to the lung. After cigarette smoking, radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer. Non-smokers are largely affected due to the inhaling.
The threshold concentration below which radon exposure presents no risk remains unknown. Even low levels of radon can result in a small increase in the risk of lung cancer. The majority of lung cancers are caused by low and moderate radon concentrations rather than by high radon concentrations because in general fewer people are exposed to high indoor radon levels.
How To Reduce This Risk At Home?
It is very important to prevent the radon gas from entering the home and with effective testing, the results can be radon-free.
- You can test your home by yourself starting with a short-term or long-term test. Most house owners choose a short-term, 48-hour home radon test kit. They are easy to use and come with clear instructions.
- By hiring a qualified radon mitigation contractor, a long-term test can be done. A long-term test device, called an alpha track, is left in place for 4 to 12 months before you send it to the laboratory for analysis. The contractor will use one of these devices or an electronic continuous radon monitor to test your home. The testing methods include inspection, diagnostic test, and soil-communication test.
The testing either detects radon gas directly or the products from its decay. There are two types of radon detectors, passive and active. Passive devices require no electrical power and generally trap radon or its products for later analysis by a laboratory. Charcoal canisters, charcoal liquid scintillation detectors, alpha track detectors, and electret ion detectors are few passive devices.
All the passive devices are available in hardware stores or e-commerce sites, except for electrets ion detectors; which are typically available in laboratories. The passive devices are usually less expensive than active devices and may require little or no special training for their use. Of the passive devices, the charcoal canisters and charcoal liquid scintillation detectors are normally used for short-term tests.
In contrast to passive devices, active devices need electrical power and contain continuous monitoring devices. Active devices detect and record radon or its products continuously. They are generally more expensive and require professionally trained testers for the operation.
Radon levels in the average house are about 1.25 picocuries/liter of air (pCi/L). If a radon test discloses levels of 4 pCi/L or greater, then some action should be taken to lower the radon level.
How Often To Test For Radon?
It is necessary that all homes are tested for radon and retested every 2-5 years.After initialization of radon mitigation system, retesting for radon is recommended.
If any changes are made to your home, like finishing a basement, modifying your air conditioner or heating system, then testing before and after is important.
Additional Ways To Reduce This Risk
Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation is a basic part of most approaches to radon reduction. Sealing the cracks before-hand limits the flow of radon into your home, thereby making other radon reduction techniques more effective and cost-efficient.
House or room pressurization blows air into the basement, or living area from either upstairs or outdoors using a fan. It attempts to create enough pressure at the lowest level indoors to prevent radon from entering the home.
A heat recovery ventilator, also called an air-to-air heat exchanger, can be installed to increase ventilation, which will help reduce the radon levels in your home. An HRV introduces outdoor air while using the heated or cooled air being exhausted to warm or cool the incoming air that will increase ventilation.
Factors That Can Affect Radon Levels
Several factors tend to influence your radon test results. Although radon gas levels might vary from day-to-day, it is unusual for the difference to be significant. Here are suggestions to help ensure an accurate reading:
Time of year – In general, radon levels are highest during the heating season. If you like to perform a long-term test, choose a time period that will span the heating and non-heating seasons.
Test location – Check for the places where the radon levels are highest and perform the test accordingly.
Weather patterns – It is advisable not to conduct a short-term test during conditions that can influence the test results, such as stormy weather or very high winds.
Test interference – Do not move the test device or open doors and windows during the test, as these actions can affect the results of radon.
Follow directions – Leave the test in place for the required time period, fill out the required information and mail the device to the laboratory immediately after completion of the test.
Radon Mitigation Systems
Radon Mitigation is any process or system that helps to reduce the radon concentrations in buildings. The main goal of the radon mitigation system is to reduce the high levels of indoor radon. In recent years, these systems have become sophisticated and further solved the radon gas problems.
A home’s foundation type determines the required radon mitigation system for best use. A radon professional uses the foundation data and works on the installation model by running a diagnostic test.
Types of radon mitigation systems
Sub-slab suction – This radon mitigation system pulls radon directly beneath the building foundation and vents it outside.
Drain tile suction – This radon mitigation systems pipe penetrates into the drain and vents the soil gases outside. Covers are placed on the sump bins.
Sub-membrane – A plastic sheet covers exposed dirt on the floor, extends up onto the wall and is sealed which is used in crawled spaces. A radon pipe penetrates the plastic sheeting, pulls the soil gas from the space, and vents it outside.
Things House Owners Need To Be Aware Of!
The radon test needs to be taken when you move into a new house. Even if you have purchased a home with Radon Resistant New Construction (RRNC), unless you, the builder or a home inspector tested your new home for radon, that’s not necessarily so. RRNC actually implies that the system is ready for protection rather than prevention.
In some parts of the country, houses are more likely to have high radon levels. Every building contains radon but the level varies. Some houses pull more radon into the house than others due to greater available pathways and pressure differences. This can be observed in a neighborhood as well.