By Insoo Park, CEO — Ecosense
When you’re selling or purchasing a new home, it may be the first time in your life that you think about radon. The truth, however, is that everyone (including renters) should be thinking about radon’s effects and the impact it can have on not only your health but also the health of your family.
With all the considerations that come with home ownership, radon may be something that gets ignored until it becomes an obvious problem or stands in the way of closing a home deal. Radon gas can be incredibly dangerous to one’s health — even life-threatening — if it goes unchecked and unmitigated. In fact, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking and is responsible for more than 21,000 deaths each year.
Because so many people are unaware of radon levels within their homes since the gas is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, the chances for prolonged exposure to dangerous levels of radon are high, especially among new homeowners. This is one reason why radon is often referred to as a “silent killer” — an appropriate moniker for a carcinogenic gas that can go unaddressed until too late.
So, how do you know if your home has a radon issue, and how can you keep your family safe against it? While you can rely on several detection and mitigation approaches to keep your house as radon-free as possible, it’s crucial to recognize the need for detection as early as possible so you can better understand your options for continuous, long-term radon monitoring and mitigation.
What is radon, and where do you find it?
Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas released from the radioactive decay of uranium in rocks and soil. When outside, radon easily dilutes into the atmosphere, but within enclosed spaces, it can easily become trapped and create a long-term exposure issue that negatively affects the health of everyone in a building.
Radon most often diffuses and emanates from the ground closest to the lowest point in a building through even the tiniest cracks and openings in the foundation, including homes with basements, crawl spaces, and slabs-on-grade. The difference in pressure between the soil air and internal air pressure causes it to be drawn inside. However, radon can be found anywhere in a home at varying levels of strength. The EPA’s recommended action level for radon within a home, at which point mitigation measures must be taken, is at or above 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter).
For homeowners, the good news is that radon detection and mitigation efforts have advanced exponentially in recent years. In most states, a radon test is commonplace when buying or selling a home, and mitigation may be required prior to the sale closing if levels are found to be at or above 4 pCi/L.
Currently, the most commonly used test for radon in real estate transactions is a standard 48-hour test intended to predict the annual average levels of radon, but this short-term test cannot give an effective reading of radon levels over time. It is not unusual to see large variations in indoor radon concentrations, particularly within unmitigated houses. Frequently, hourly average swings follow a daily pattern.
In other cases, the radon changes may be a response to some change in weather or house operation. Radon levels can also be quite different from day to day and season to season, so even if a radon detector accurately records the average concentration during its deployment period, a sequence of short-term measurements results from different periods can show a wide range of values. That’s why constantly monitoring your to assess potential health risks should be performed over the long term using detectors that respond and record rapidly enough to track all the temporal radon variations.
If radon is found within a home or business, many may wonder what their next step is — especially if they weren’t familiar with radon before. If radon levels in your home are at or above 4 pCi/L, mitigation efforts will become necessary.
The most effective mitigation approach prevents radon from entering the home in the first place by drawing the gas up from the ground and venting it through a pipe and above the roof of the home, where it dissipates. If your home’s radon levels are below the EPA’s recommendation, but you would still like to be better safe than sorry, consult a radon mitigation professional, who will provide steps you can take to keep your home safe and radon-free.
Regular monitoring and sound mitigation practices can help one protect one’s family from radon-induced illness and cancer. Radon shouldn’t be something someone simply thinks about before they’re ready to sign on the dotted line for a new home, but a consideration for any homeowner who wants to create the safest living environment possible for their families.
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