Radon gas is a natural chemical byproduct produced in the soil and released into the atmosphere. It enters your home through basement or foundation access points or cracks, is odorless and varies in concentration levels from one proximity to another. No two homes are alike, even your neighbors could have a different radon level. The only way to detect harmful radio-active radon gas is to test. The EPA recommends testing your home every 2 years as radon levels can fluctuate based on constantly changing environmental factors. You should also test your home every 2 years even if you have a radon mitigation system installed on your home to ensure the system is still operating effectively. At Pure Air Environmental, we are experts at quickly testing and finding the best options to get your home at a safe level to give you and your family peace of mind. Long term exposure to radon gas has been proven to cause lung cancer. Don’t play radon roulette with your family’s lungs!
The Truth About Radon
#1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, 2nd leading cause of cancer in humans
60% of central Indiana homes have high radon levels*
*as estimated by EPA
21,000 lung cancer deaths each year are caused by radon gas
What is radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas without color, odor or taste. Radon is one stage in the decay process of uranium. When one element “decays” and becomes a different element altogether, it gives off radiation in the form of alpha and beta particles and gamma rays. Radon exists as a gas for slightly less than 4 days. It then decays and smaller energy particles are formed which also decay very rapidly. The alpha particles in the air are the real concern as they are heavy enough to penetrate a layer of skin. Long term exposure to high levels of radon gas can cause damage to sensitive lung tissue that can then lead to lung cancer.
How does radon cause cancer?
These radon decay products, called “daughters,” attach themselves to dust particles floating in the air. When inhaled they can become lodged in the lung tissue. As these radon daughters decay, emitting the tiny bursts of energy, they can damage that lung cell tissue. Prolonged exposure can cause lung cancer. Scientific research indicates that at least a 10 to 20 year incubation period is required before a lung cancer develops. Scientists estimate that indoor radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the number two cause of lung cancer (after smoking) in the United States. Up to 21,000 Americans may die each year as a result of radon exposure. The EPA considers radon to be the most significant environmental health risk we face today.
Where does radon originate?
Radon comes primarily from the soil under a building. Radon can be found almost everywhere because radium (the “parent” of radon gas) is present in most soils. Average concentrations of radon are usually low, and small amounts of radon are measurable in the air. However, when homes, schools and buildings are erected over a source of radon, the gas can become trapped and elevated inside the building. The highest levels are usually detected in the basement, however heating and air conditioning systems and whole house vacuum systems can quickly spread radon to other parts of a building.
How does radon enter homes, schools and other buildings?
Radon usually enters buildings mixed with other gasses from the soil. Usual entry points are open sumps, cracks in floors and cinder block walls, openings in floors (from electrical, plumbing and other penetrations), floor drains, etc. Radon is literally pulled, or sucked into the building due to what is called the “stack effect.” Warm, heated air inside the building will rise and exit at higher elevations and this loss will require air to come from the soil through the cracks and openings mentioned before. Other exhausting appliances (such as fireplaces, dryers, bathroom fans, etc.) can also increase the rate of radon entry.
How is radon detected?
One of the most common radon test types is the activated carbon test. Using this technique, a small canister of activated charcoal is placed in the lowest livable area of a home or commercial building (the basement, if you have one) for several days. After exposure, the canister is sealed and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Charcoal canister tests help you determine the radon concentration present at the time of the test. Other test devices include electronic continuous radon monitors (CRM’s), which can be used to detect and document radon levels on an hourly basis. This type of test is especially valuable when you are involved in purchasing a home and want to prevent tampering with the test device. Certain monitors can also be used to locate primary radon entry points.
When are radon levels highest?
Radon levels are highest in the winter by a factor of two to three times over summertime readings.
What if my house has been vacant for some time?
Unlike natural gas, carbon monoxide or other toxic airborne gasses, radon does not continue to build in concentration. Because ½ the radon “decays” every 3.8 days, an equilibrium is reached and radon levels remain fairly constant. Testing any home requires that the building be kept closed for a period of time before and DURING the test, negating the concern that the house has been vacant and closed up for a long period.
Where can I find more information?
The Environmental Protection Agency’s website is an excellent source of information. Visit our links page for access to various resources and references.
What is the radon testing process look like?
As the EPA recommends, we place the test device(s) in the lowest level of the home that could be used regularly, whether it is finished or unfinished. We offer four distinctly different radon testing options that are all EPA-approved. Short-term and long-term tests are available. Short-term measurements lasting between two and 90 days, while longer term tests are considered more accurate as they remove seasonal or weather changes.
- Basic testing: results are typically available within 5-7 days from the lab.
- Electret ION chamber: Typically used as a longer-term test. The electret canisters are read in our office with our equipment therefore no lab delays are experienced.
- Continuous Radon Monitor: The most reliable and fastest way to secure results. This is deemed an active testing option since it requires power to function. The digital box is activated at the testing site and retrieved 48 hours later. Upon retrieval, the radon test level is displayed electronically. An hour by hour reading is also available which depicts any fluctuations.
- Alpha-track: For long-term testing periods. It also requires submission to a lab for analysis.
What are the treatment steps in removing radon from my home?
The goal of radon mitigation is to effectively move air from underneath the home’s foundation and exhaust it outside. Basements are the most prevalent, but crawl spaces and cement slabs also have high radon activity and that’s where mitigation installation takes place. We offer four systems:
- Exterior: As the most common system, a suction point is placed into the concrete floor and fan is installed on the exterior, extended far enough to avoid radon reentering
- Passive: This is commonly used in newer homes as an exhaust has already been installed during the construction process. However, the installation does not typically create the right air flow, and so we must extend off of it. This is a great option for those who, for cosmetic reasons, do not want a fan and exhaust pipe visible on the home exterior.
- Interior: This option combines the exterior and passive systems for those who do not want an exterior fan but did not have the passive system installed in their home.
- HRV: When all other options are unavailable, we recommend this system. This is typically only installed in older homes that still have root cellars or dirt floors. A fresh air intake and an exhaust port are installed, and more installations may occur in larger areas, making it the most expensive option.
Each system includes a post-mitigation test.
Mitigations options will vary as no two homes are alike. To learn more about each system and what option would work best in your home, contact us today. We fully guarantee our systems to maintain radon levels BELOW the EPA recommended level for 5 years after installation date. At Pure Air Environmental, we work hard to ensure the satisfaction of our clients while making sure their family and homes are safe. To us, every breath matters.