Radon is a deadly gas that cannot be detected by human senses as it has no color, odor, or taste. It’s a silent killer if present in our living environments and is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers within the US. In this quick introduction to radon gas, we will reveal where it comes from, how it gets into our homes, and more importantly – how to get rid of it and prevent it.
- Where does radon come from?
- So how does radon get into homes?
- Radon levels
- Radon zones map
- Exposure symptoms
- How to know if you have a radon problem
- How to get rid of radon
- Open the windows
- Sump pump covers
- Air purifiers
- Foundation cracks
- Mitigation fans
Where does radon come from?
The soil and rock underneath our homes have traces of uranium, radium, and thorium. When the soil gets disturbed and rocks break down from natural occurrences, they release small amounts of this deadly gas that then travel upwards towards our houses.
So how does radon get into homes?
It moves upward through the soil underneath houses and enters through the sump pump, cracks in the foundation, construction joints, and drains. The quantities, in many cases, are small, but can quickly build up to dangerous levels; especially during the winter months when windows and doors remain closed because of the cold weather.
Indoor gas concentrations are measured in units of picocuries per liter (pCi/L). And to be perfectly honest, there are no safe radon levels. However, the EPA states that concentrations of up to 4pCi/L are acceptable. Anything higher requires immediate attention.
Radon zones map
On the radon zones map of the continental US, you will see that everything has been divided into three zones.
Zones 1, which is indicated in red, has the highest amounts (usually 4pCi/L or higher). Those who reside in these parts will need to have permanent radon detectors and mitigation systems installed.
Zones 2, which is indicated in orange, has average levels (usually 2 to 4pCi/L). People residing in these parts of the US should also have permanent radon detectors and mitigation systems installed. Or at the very least, conduct regular radon testing.
Zones 3, indicated in yellow, has the lowest levels on the continental US. Levels here rarely go higher than 2pCi/l, which is well below the EPA acceptable levels. But keep in mind that there are no safe radon levels. Therefore, homeowners in these parts of the US should conduct regular tests, or even better, have detectors and mitigation systems installed.
Although the gas has no odor and cannot be seen, there are some tell-tale signs that you might have been exposed to dangerous levels. Some common symptoms include a persistent cough, shortness of breath, difficulty swallowing, a raspy voice, and/or a tight chest.
How to know if you have a radon problem
There may be some exposure symptoms that could be an indication of abnormally high radon levels, but there is no way to definitely confirm without a long term test or a detector.
How to get rid of radon
If a test or a detector has confirmed the presence of radon in your home, then rest assured, as there are many steps one can take to get rid of it.
Open the windows: If there is radon build-up in your basement or the first floor of your house, then you should open all of the windows. Closed windows allow the gas to build up to dangerous levels and opening the windows will allow some of it to escape while also allowing fresh air in to help dilute it.
Sump pump cover: Sump pumps are usually an entry point for gas inside of basements. Regular sump pump covers won’t do the trick, but a certain sump pump domes will go a long way in keeping this deadly gas out of your basement.
Air purifiers: Hepa air purifiers do a great job of removing mold spores from indoor environments, but did you know that a carbon filtered air purifier is highly effective at removing radon too? Check them out here.
Foundation cracks: Cracks in foundation floors and basements walls are common entry points. Repairing and sealing them off will go a long way in preventing this deadly gas from entering your home.
Mitigation fans: Mitigation fans are the best solution for high indoor radon levels. The fan sucks the gas through its system and expels it outside. Learn more about them here.