How Does Radon Enter Your House?
Radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas that originates from uranium in the ground. No matter where you live or what kind of home you have, you could have radon seeping up into your property.
If too much radon enters your home, you could be at an increased risk of lung cancer – even if you’ve never smoked a cigarette before.
Where Does Radon Come From?
Radon is associated with two major sources – nuclear power plants and naturally-occurring uranium. Uranium can be found in almost all types of soil. Virginia in particular is identified by the EPA as having a high risk of radon exposure.
As uranium breaks down it creates radium and then as radium breaks down it releases radon in a gas form. That gas is radioactive and can travel from the ground where the uranium is and into your home above.
The gas can then enter your home through cracks and gaps in your floors, different openings, holes in your walls, joints in the structure and crawl spaces.
The EPA warns that even the newest or most well-sealed homes can have a radon problem.
Less commonly, radon can contaminate drinking water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year there are 30 to 1,800 radon-related deaths connected to household water.
Radon can be found in groundwater extracted from areas with granite, granitic sand or gravel. This includes private wells.
What Happens if Radon Enters My Home?
Radon testing is recommended by the EPA for all homes regardless of location. Environmental Hazards Services offers an easy way to test for radon.
EHS will provide you with a short-term passive device that screens your house. Air from your home circulates through the device and any radon captured is trapped inside a vial.
That vial is then sent to the EHS laboratory for analysis. The EHS sales department can set you up with one of our simple radon testing devices.
How Do I Get Rid of Radon?
After you send your test to the EHS laboratory, they will report back with the radon levels found inside of your home. No level of radon is safe for human exposure, but when levels become higher the risk becomes something you should address immediately.
The average amount of radon outdoors is .4 picocuries per liter. Picocuries is a measurement used to describe the rate of radioactive decay of radon, when measured per liter that describes the amount in each liter of air. Indoors, the average radon level is 1.3 pCi/L.
For context, the EPA estimates that about 2 non-smoking people or 20 smoking people in every 1,000 could develop lung cancer after exposure to 1.3 pCi/L of radon.
If your home has a radon level of 4 pCi/L or higher, your lung cancer risk is high enough that experts say you must fix your home.
In order to make your house safer, you can purchase a radon reduction system. The EPA’s Consumers Guide to Radon Reduction outlines all of the options to reduce radon risk in a home.
The most commonly used method is a soil suction system, which involves setting up a vent pipe system and fan. The suction system extracts radon from the ground under your house and pushes it out outside of your home.
Alternatively, suction systems can be installed in crawl spaces, on drain tiles or perforated pipe and in home foundations.
Homeowners can also try sealing cracks in their house, increasing the pressure of lower levels of the home, installing a heat recovery ventilator or increasing natural ventilation.
How can Radon Hurt Me?
Radon has been linked to lung cancer, both in individuals with a history of smoking and those who have never smoked before. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in smokers and the first leading cause for non-smokers.
According to the EPA, 21,000 people die from radon-caused lung cancer every year. It kills around 2,900 non-smokers each year and increases lung cancer risks for smokers.
Lung cancer is the world’s most common form of cancer. Around 130,000 people die from lung cancer each year.
You should consider seeing a doctor if you start showing symptoms such as:
- Coughing up blood
- Frequent respiratory infections
- Cough that won’t go away
- Shoulder, back or chest pains
- Difficulty breathing
- Exhaustion or fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Face and neck swelling
- Trouble swallowing
- Weight loss
Test for Radon Before It’s Too Late
EHS also offers other forms of lab testing to ensure your home or workplace is as safe as possible. Visit our Testing Services page to learn more.