What Is Radon Gas?
What is radon gas? Why can it be dangerous? How can it get in your home? How to protect your family.
What is radon and what can it do to your home?
Radon is a gas that comes from uranium. It's found in many rocks and soil, especially soil that has been contaminated with pollution. It's naturally found in the air we breathe outside but won't harm people because it is so diluted that we don't notice it. However, if there's a significant level of radon inside, we won't recognize it either until it becomes dangerous to your health.
Radon has no color, smell, or taste, and the Environmental Protection Agency suspects that many homes in the United States may be contaminated. If you consistently breathe in a significant amount of radon, you increase your chances of developing lung cancer.
How does radon get in your home?
Radon will only get into your home if the soil under your home and the construction of your home are of a certain design. Radon is a gas and is found naturally in soil. So if the soil on which your home is built contains radon, radon can escape from the dirt and into your home. Radon leaks into your home from the soil through dirt floors or cracks in your wood or cement floors. It can also come through pipes and cracks where the floor and the ground meet.
How do you test for radon in your home?
You can get a radon detector kit at many department or hardware stores. If you contact your state government, there may actually be a way you can get your kit for free. Make sure the kit you have has been tested by the EPA.
The two best ways for consumers to test for radon themselves only will cost you about no more than $50. The charcoal canister or the alpha track detector allows you to leave it in your home on the lowest point possible for a certain period of time. You'll want to put it on the floor of your basement, if you have one. During the testing time, you'll need to close and seal your doors and windows. The test normally takes anywhere from three days to four weeks, depending on the type of tester you purchase. Keep your windows and doors closed as much as possible throughout this period. You'll also need to turn off your air conditioners and any vents that remove dirty air from your house. You'll probably want to either do this test in the winter or stay at a friend or relative's home during this time because of the lack of air conditioning.
If your home has less than 0.02 WL (working level) or four pCi/l (picoCuries per liter) of radon, your home is probably safe. If it has less than 1 WL or less than 200pCi/l, you'll want to do some more substantial follow-up tests. But if your home has more than 1 WL or 200pCi/l, you need do another test immediately, but only expose the indicator for a week.
How do you lower the radon level in your home?
There are some simple ways to lower the amount of radon in your home and cut down on your risk of exposure. If your home doesn't have a high level of radon, you'll simply need to discourage smoking in your home, spend less time in your basement or the lower levels of your home that are mainly exposed to radon, open your windows often throughout your home (including in your basement), keep all crawl spaces well ventilated with outdoor vents year round in order to reduce the amount of radon.
If you have a major radon problem in your home, do some follow-up tests to make sure the results are accurate and then call your state radiation protection office. They are experts and can help you with your particular needs.