Simply put, a home with impure breathing conditions is miserable to be in. There are natural irritants such as pet hair and dust and then there is dander and debris that gets kicked around every time a forced air HVAC system operates. While these types of foreign substances can definitely be a nuisance, they pale in comparisons to the extreme health risks that arise when radon is present in your home.
Radon has three characteristics going for it that make it so harmful – 1) it is colorless, 2) it is odorless, 3) it is radioactive. This gas could definitely be considered the silent killer as it is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths, killing as many as 20,000 people annually in the U.S. Radon codes are in place to prevent exposure in new home construction and regulations are set forth in dealing with radon that forms in buildings over time.
What is Radon?
Radon forms naturally as elements such as uranium decay over time. The radon formation starts in the soil and rocks but eventually creeps into the air or even into underground and surface water supplies. Radon is actually present in very low levels outdoors and in rivers and lakes, but is found in much higher concentration on the indoors of homes and other buildings. Radon can attach itself to dust and be breathed into the lungs or it can break down and give off radiation that is absorb into the body’s cells.
Limiting Your Exposure to Radon
Obviously it becomes very important to limit your exposure to radon. Testing should be done on a regular basis to make sure that home or business radon levels are below 4.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The average home has an indoor radon level of 1.3 pCi/L which is widely considered harmless.
The first step in determining if your home may be posing a health risk because of high radon levels is to test it. Radon test kits come in either the passive or the active form. A passive test can consist of charcoal cannisters, electrical chamber detectors, and similar devices that are exposed to a room and then sent to a laboratory for testing.
Active radon tests use power to function. They are real-time radon detectors that continuously monitor and record levels in the home. The devices provide a report that show long term and short term radon levels in your home. They are especially useful in basements which are closer to the soil and concrete that could be forcing radon into your home.
What to Do With High Radon Levels?
If a radon inspection finds that your levels are above or near the 4.0 pCi/l level, there are a few methods to try and get those numbers lowered. The best way is to force air the other way – out of your home with suction that brings air from the basement below the slab and exhausts it out the roof. If your water is the source of radon in your home well repairs will likely be needed.
Radon is not something to be left for chance. It may take weeks or months to show signs of radon exposure so it’s best to have your area tested to provide a sound peace of mind. Since radon is colorless and odorless, a professional test is really the only sure fire method to make sure your home is safe.