Radon is an odorless and tasteless radioactive gas that all too often goes untested in homes. Elevated levels of radon pose serious health risks and have become responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. In fact, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the United States. To reduce your risk of radon exposure, it's important to understand the causes of high radon levels as well as effective ways to maintain a safe radon level in your home.
What is Radon?
Radon is produced when uranium breaks down in rock, soil, and water. Although rock and water can emit small amounts of radon, soil is the primary source of elevated radon levels in US homes. If the soil around your home has elevated levels, the radioactive gas can enter your home through cracks or other openings along the foundation, polluting the air you breathe. This gas can also enter your home through water, particularly through ground water sources or well system.
Testing for Radon
The only way to determine if your home has dangerous levels of radon is to administrator a radon test. You can either hire a certified, independent contractor to test your home's level, or you can use a Do-It-Yourself radon test kit. Either method is affordable and easily administered.
Studies show that the average level of radon in US homes is 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi / L). This is wonderful considering the action level indicated by the EPA rests at 4.0 pCi / L. If your home shows a radon level of 4.0 pCi / L or higher, you could be at risk. Keep in mind that if you smoke and your home has an elevated radon level, you are at an even higher risk for contracting lung cancer and other harmful conditions.
How to Reduce Radon in Your Home
There are several steps you can take to reduce the radon level in your home, however, be sure to measure the radon levels first and implement a way to get the current radon out of your home. Otherwise, you might trap the radon and prevent it from exiting your home-quite counterproductive!
- Seal cracks and / or openings along your home's foundation to limit radon from entering. Focus on the lower levels of your home, such as the basement or garage. If your home has a crawlspace foundation, cover the ground with a high-density plastic sheet.
- Prevent radon from entering your home with a heat recovery ventilator (HRV). An HRV improves a home's air quality by increasing ventilation and reducing radon levels. HRVs can ventilate your entire home or just a particular area that is susceptible to radon, such as the basement. Be sure to regularly change your HRV's filter to ensure optimal results.
- Pressurization is an effective radon reduction technique designed to increase the pressure in a home's basement, where radon typically enters from the soil. This increase in pressure prevails radon from entering the home through its lower levels.
- For temporary radon reduction, open windows, doors, and lower-level vents to let in outdoor air and increase natural ventilation.
Testing your home for radon is easy and inexpensive, and can drastically reduce your risk of lung cancer. You can perform a radon test yourself or hire a professional. So do not wait – take the necessary steps to reduce the risk of radon exposure in your home today!