Where I am located in South Florida, radon or testing for it is almost unheard of. However, due to the dangers of radon, and the occasional testing we do, I think it is good to provide some helpful information to explain what radon is, why it is less of a risk in some areas, and why one might choose to hire a radon test to be performed. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon gas is the number one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers throughout the country; and yet most people in my area of the country are completely unaware of the dangers of Radon! Homes can easily be tested for Radon and if dangerous levels are discovered, the treatment for radon mitigation can be solved relatively inexpensively.
Here is some of the science explaining what radon is: Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that is inert, colorless, and orderless. Locations that contain a high concentration of radon gas is where high concentrations of uranium are found in the earth. these areas have porous soil or cracks in the soil that allows the radon gas to migrate up from the soil as uranium decays. Not all habitable areas around the country fit this description and so, while some levels of radon will still be present inside the home, these levels will generally be lower than the level established by the EPA as hazardous.
The decay that comes from the radon gas is the issue. The product particles are radioactive and attach themselves to lung tissue when radon gas is inhaled resulting in the possible outcome of lung cancer. The EPA states that radon is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. Of the 21,000 people, about 2,900 of them are people who have never smoked. It’s definitely a good idea not to underestimate the dangers of radon!
Radon moves up from the earth and enters your home through cracks in the foundation, cracks in basement or crawlspace walls, and openings around piping and electrical conduit. Radon gets trapped in the house and then it starts to build up resulting in the possibility of it causing a potential hazard to the occupants of the home. However, when the radon gas escapes into outdoor air it dilutes quickly causing no harm. This brings up a couple scenarios where a home owner may want to test for radon even in areas known for having very low levels. 1. Does your home have an encapsulated attic or a reinforced concrete roof structure built to be air-tight? Well then, the lower levels of radon the come up into the home have a higher chance of being trapped and accumulating over time. 2. Have you verified that your particular neighborhood hasn’t been confirmed to have multiple cases of high radon levels inside home? For example, where I live in Fort Lauderdale located in Broward county Florida, high radon levels is very rare. However, in the city of Parkland, several cases of high radon levels have been confirmed. So if I have clients purchasing a home in this city, I always recommend a radon test be performed.
Because radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after tobacco, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Surgeon General recommend testing ALL homes for radon and mitigating those with an average concentration above the U.S EPA action level of 4 picocuries per Liter (4pCi/IL) or higher (no I did not make up the word picocuries…). If this isn’t enough nerd for you, here is a good source for more of the science known about radon.
How to test for radon
A normal home inspection does not include radon testing. You can request one in addition to your home inspection but in areas where radon levels are generally low, few home inspection companies will provide this service. In such a case, one will have to research an environmental company or inspection company that has the proper equipment and expertise to perform this testing accurately. There are several ways to aid in detecting radon levels in homes used by professionals:
- Radon can be tested using a charcoal canister to absorb radon from the air.
- Etch detectors that use a sensitive plastic surface can be used. The radon will leave tracks on the plastic which then can be measured.
- Air testing can be performed.
Tips on How to Lower Radon in Houses
There is a multitude of techniques you can use to lower radon levels in buildings that include:
- Sealing cracks, gaps, and holes in the concrete slab floor
- Adding a mechanical ventilation system that draws air and radon from beneath the slab or basement, discharging the air directly to the exterior of the home
Radon problems in a home can be easily addressed. In performing radon testing we have chosen to only use Florida licensed environmental testers using Radalink radon monitors. You can schedule a radon testing with us today!