Testing the Home For Radon Gas

There are any number of health hazards that can present themselves to the American home, from hurricanes to flash floods to carbon monoxide, but one of the deadly hazards that is often underestimated is radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can find its way into buildings, mines, and other low, confined areas. What are the hazards of radon gas, and how can it be detected and dealt with?

Radon Basics

What is radon? According to Health Line, radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless radioactive gas that is often produced when thorium, uranium, and radium break down in soil, rocks, and water, and form radon, which can then drift up and into the air. In fact, most people breathe radon every day, but not enough to be an actual hazard. When a person breathes excessive amounts of radon gas, symptoms can appear such as wheezing, a persistent cough, chest pain during laughter or coughing, and shortness of breath. Loss of appetite, weight loss, and fatigue can set in after prolonged exposure. And given enough time, breathing radon gas can cause lung cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA, along with the Surgeon’s General Office both estimate that up to 20,000 lung cancer deaths occur each year due to radon. Often, radon will come up through the soil and enter a house via cracks in the foundation, and if the house is well insulated, the radon gas can linger in the basement or first floor. Around 1 in 15 American homes probably have radon levels at hr higher than the EPA’s recommended safe levels.

Residential Radon Testing

Short term and long term testing kits can screen a home for radon levels. Short term radon gas testing will work for two to 90 days, while long term testing is done over a span exceeding 90 days. Often, hardware stores will have these testing kits for homeowners to purchase and use. These devices may be charcoal canisters, alpha-track detectors, or continuous monitors, among other types. During testing time, windows and other air flow items should minimize the flow of air into and out of the house, including fans, so the house’s air is not mixed up with outside air that will give a false reading. Long term testing may yield more accurate results if the user is not pressed for time, and either way, the buyer should follow the device’s instructions carefully and for maximum effectiveness, place the detector in the basement or ground floor where noxious gas is most likely to accumulate and linger. When the testing is done, the buyer can send the device to its manufacturer or other official service where they can analyze the data and send it to the homeowner.

How to Get Rid of Radon?

If the tested air has a radon level of 4 picoCuries per liter, or 4pCi/L, the levels are high enough to mandate radon removal. For a preventative measure, the homeowner can seal and caulk the cracks in the basement or first floor that allow the gas to enter, and one can install a plastic sheet between the gas permeable soil and slab so the gas cannot enter. Also, a soil suction radon reduction system can be installed, and it will use a pipe to draw radioactive gas from the soil and vent it outside so it does not accumulate in the home.

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