Radon is a radioactive, carcinogenic gas that forms underground. Radon in the home can be mitigated to keep your household healthy and safe. If you’re concerned about whether your family is at risk for exposure, learn more about radon in this article.
What is Radon?
Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is formed when thorium, uranium, and radium break down in the earth. Radon gas is a by-product that seeps up through the ground into the air. Radon accumulates anywhere where there’s not adequate ventilation. This happens inside homes, office buildings, schools, and other structures.
How Does Radon Exposure Occur?
Radon enters the home through foundation and wall cracks. Once inside, it mixes with the air you breathe. Concentrations are often high on lower levels of the building, like the basement and the first floor. It accumulates over time as more of the gas seeps into the home.
Radon exposure occurs when you or a family member breathe the contaminated air. It doesn’t matter what type of home you live in or how old or new it is. Radon can become a problem if your house was built on a concrete slab or has a basement. It’s estimated that one out of every 15 homes in the United States has high levels of radon.
Radon in the Home: Health Risks
Exposure to radon over long periods comes with great health risks. The biggest concern is lung cancer. In the United States, over 20,000 deaths each year are attributed to lung cancer caused by radon in the home.
How to Test for Radon in the Home
To know if you and your family are exposed, you’ll need to have your home tested. Your neighbor’s house can have low levels of radon while your home might have elevated levels.
It’s possible to test for it on your own. Short-term and long-term tests are sold online and at hardware stores. Short-term tests typically measure for two or three days. You must keep your doors and windows shut while conducting the test if you want accurate results. Long-term test kits measure for longer than three months. These tests are considered more accurate because they measure levels of the gas as it fluctuates over a period of time.
Buying a DIY test at your local hardware store is not recommended. There are reasons to hire a professional for testing. A radon tester will know how to get accurate readings, where to place the test device, how to administer the test, and how to analyze the results. Without proper training, the likelihood of user error is high.
If elevated levels of the gas are found, hire a radon mitigation expert to design a mitigation system for your home. Along with installing a system, mitigation also involves fixing foundation cracks and gaps in walls to keep radon from entering the home. It’s important to periodically test for radon after mitigation to ensure that levels stay low.