In recent years the importance of indoor air quality (IAQ) has risen as awareness of the relationship between air pollutants and health risks has grown.
Initiatives spearheaded by government and private health organizations have focused on not only raising awareness but also setting safety and construction standards aimed at reducing pollutants in buildings and homes as a means to ensure they are safe for human habitation. Chief among these concerns is the presence of Radon gas and the serious health risk associated with concentrated exposure within the home.
What is Radon?
Radon is a colorless, tasteless and odorless gas that is released as a byproduct of the natural decomposition of radioactive elements, such as, uranium and thorium that are found in most soil, rock and water.
The decomposition of these elements is an ongoing process, causing the constant release of radon gas into the surrounding soil and groundwater which ultimately finds its way into the air around us. Although the quantity of radon gas in the air may vary by location, by its nature it is always present and will never be eliminated.
Outdoors, the release of radon gas into the atmosphere is of little concern as it is quickly diluted by the surrounding air. However, in the confines of a building or home the concentration of radon gas has the potential of being a serious health concern.
How does Radon enter my home?
There are many factors that contribute to how and to what extent Radon enters a home. The amount of decaying radioactive material in the immediate geologic vicinity, the types of construction materials used and how the structure was built help to determine entry and concentration of radon gas in a home.
The most common avenue for radon to enter a home is through the foundation. Radon gas released by radioactive decomposition is forced upward by the higher pressure of the ground to the lower pressures present in your home. Any openings in the foundation, such as cracks and sumps, act as entry points for rising radon gases.
Unprotected crawlspaces and basements with earthen floors also provide an unrestricted pathway for radon gases to enter your home. Regardless of how radon gas enters into your home, it will have a direct negative effect on the IAQ and elevated levels will pose a proportionate health risk to inhabitants.
What are the health risks associated with Radon?
It should be noted that there are no safe levels of Radon and the prolonged exposure to unsafe levels can result in serious health consequences.
The health risks associated with prolonged exposure to radon have caused it to be labeled a human carcinogen and cited as the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking by the EPA and other health and safety organizations.
An estimated 21,000 people per year lose their lives to lung cancer related to prolonged exposure to radon in the United States alone. However, these risks are completely avoidable by having a radon test conducted and correcting your home if radon levels exceed the acceptable range defined by the EPA.
“Indoor radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and breathing it over prolonged periods can present a significant health risk to families all over the county. It’s important to know that this threat is completely preventable. Radon can be detected with a simple test and fixed through well-established venting techniques.” – Richard Carmona
Former Surgeon General of United States
Should I have my new home tested for Radon?
The EPA recommends that when buying an existing home or occupying a newly constructed home, a radon test should be conducted to ensure that radon levels in the home are within acceptable levels.
For the small investment of having a radon test conducted by a certified professional home inspector as part of your home inspection, you can minimize the risk to the health and safety of your family.
How is a Radon test conducted?
Radon testing requires the placement of air sampling equipment in the home for at least forty-eight hours to get a representative air sample that is then analyzed to determine the levels of radon present.
To ensure that the radon test obtains a sample that accurately represents the concentration of radon in the home, the test is conducted in a “closed” home wherein all doors and windows must remain closed allowing for the natural build-up of radon to occur.
What should I do if my home has elevated levels of Radon?
A house should not be written off just because it has radon levels that exceed the EPA standard. In the event a home is found to have elevated levels of radon; a qualified radon mitigation specialist should be consulted to evaluate the home and offer recommendations to help reduce radon levels in the home. Many radon mitigation companies offer affordable radon reduction systems that are effective at not only venting much of the radon gas but also reducing the amount of rising gases that penetrate the home due to radioactive decomposition. When considering purchasing a home with high levels of radon gas, it is suggested consulting a radon mitigation specialist to discuss what options are available to make the home safe for you and your family.
The risk of living with levels of radon gas in your home beyond the acceptable range defined by the EPA is great. Having a radon test conducted with your home inspection is an important step in ensuring the home does not have levels of radon that pose a serious health risk to your family.
For the small investment required, radon testing can give you peace of mind that your home is a safe environment for your family or whether steps need to be taken to make it so.
If you are buying a home, occupying a newly constructed home or own an existing home that has not been tested, let Northern Home Inspection Services, L.L.C. test your home to help safeguard your family. Give me a call today at (315) 298-0381 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can discuss making your home a healthy home.