What Home Buyers and Sellers Should Know About Radon

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After cigarette smoke, radon is the next major cause of death due to lung cancer. A smoker who resides in an apartment that has a high level of radon is increasing his or her chances of having lung cancer. 

The only efficient method of checking whether you or your household is safe is to test your home for exposure to this harmful gas.

What is Radon?

What is Radon

Source

It is a type of radioactive gas, and it occurs naturally when radium, uranium, or thorium break down. This reaction can occur in water, soil, or rocks. People get exposed to the gas when they breathe in the air coming through gaps and cracks in homes and buildings. Since radon occurs naturally, everyone is exposed. 

You can visit https://www.epa.gov/radiation/radiation-health-effects to find out how radioactive metals affect human health. 

Radon is responsible for approximately 20,000 deaths due to lung cancer every year in the United States. When a person breathes in the gas, the radioactive particles in it are trapped in the lungs. 

As they keep accumulating over time, they increase the chances of developing lung cancer. Unfortunately, it might take many years before an affected person starts noticing the health problem.

It is important to note that the chances of developing lung cancer due to gas exposure depend on the following:

  • Whether you use coal, wood, or other things that can emit particles into your indoor air.
  • Whether you’ve ever smoked or still smoke.
  • The number of hours you spend inside your apartment.
  • The level of radon in your building – the room where you stay most times (e.g., sleeping areas and the living room).

Your chances of developing lung cancer increase if there are high levels of radon in your apartment and you’re a smoker or use fuels that emit indoor particles.

How Radon Enters Our Homes

We already mentioned that the gas occurs naturally as a result of the breakdown of radioactive metals in water, soil, and rocks. Now, the air pressure in our homes is lower compared to that of the soil surrounding the foundation of our homes. 

Due to this pressure difference, the building performs the work of a vacuum by drawing in the gas through cracks and gaps in the foundation.

Furthermore, the gas can be in your water, and you may not know it. When you use the water to shower or for other purposes, the gas infiltrates your indoor air. 

Most times, the amount that enters the home through this means is small compared to the soil. In some homes, building materials like granite and some concrete products give off the gas.

Is There an Acceptable or Safe Radon Level?

Technically, there is no safe level. It all depends on the concentration in the arena. On average, the outdoor radon level should be 0.4 picocuries per liter of air. However, if your home has a value that is above 4.0 picocuries per liter of air, you need to contact professional services. 

You can visit Radon Pros for help finding professionals who can offer immediate remediation.

What is Radon Mitigation?

What is Radon Mitigation

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This is a process of lowering the level of radon in a place and keeping it below 4.0 picocuries per liter. This either helps to prevent the harmful gas from entering a home if it hasn’t already entered or simply reduces its current level in a home. There are 2 systems of mitigation.

Active mitigation: This system involves the use of a fan when moving the gas out of the building.

Passive mitigation: This system does not use a fan. Instead, it is designed to achieve the same aim without a fan.

Recent construction work employs passive systems, and they work effectively if the contractor uses a professional installer. 

Additionally, if the level of radon is extremely high, say more than 8 picocuries per liter, the passive system cannot move enough of the gas from the home. Therefore, if your target is to reduce radon levels, use an active system first to keep your family safe from intense exposure.

Furthermore, if you already installed the passive system in your building, you could upgrade it to become an active one. If you plan to construct a new building, it is important to hire a certified radon specialist to install a passive or active radon system. This will ensure that the system is properly installed. 

Also, if you choose the passive type, ensure you test the level of radon after construction. It will help you to know whether the installed system is working or not.

Types of Mitigation Systems for Radon

There are different mitigation systems that you can use based on the foundation of your building. You can also choose to customize one for your home. As earlier discussed, the mitigation systems are divided into active and passive versions, but we will discuss more on the active type.

Slab-on-Grade and Basement Systems

The methods used in this category are:

1. Depressurization or Suction of the Sub-Slab

For this type of foundation, this method is mostly used to reduce radon levels. The professionals will insert pipes into the loose soil or rock underneath your home. They can do it outside the home or through your floor slab.

Oftentimes, they use one pipe, but on some occasions, more pipes are used. The active type uses a fan in addition to this system to suck in the harmful gas and channel it out of your home.

2. Suction Via Drain Tile 

If your home has perforated pipes or drains tiles that channel water out of the building’s foundation, then the professional will use this method. They simply add suction to the existing pipes. This enables them to channel the gas along with the water.

3. Suction Via Sump and Basin

This is similar to the sub-slab method as it uses the existing basin and sump pump. The professional caps the sump and then uses it as a spot for the gas suction pipe.

4. Suction Via Block Wall

This method uses the hollow blocks in the walls of the foundation to depressurize the block walls and then remove the gas. Sometimes, the professional can use this together with the sub-slab method, but it is not a commonly used method. You may want to watch this video to see how radon mitigation systems work.

Crawlspace Systems

The methods used in this category are:

1. Depressurization of the Sub-Membrane

Generally, this is regarded as the most efficient mitigation method. But it must be properly installed by a certified contractor to make sure that it works. This method involves fixing a plastic reinforced liner on the floor, then adding a fan and a pipe. This combination helps to suck the gas from underneath the floor out of the home.

2. Venting

Sometimes, installing a lot of vents in your crawl space is effective in removing radon. You can either make the vents to be active by placing fans or passive. However, this method will increase your energy cost and humidity level, thereby, leading to the growth of mold. 

It can also bring up insulation issues in winter. Therefore, if you choose this method, ensure you are using a ventilator for heat recovery or energy recovery.

Other Systems

Other mitigation methods are:

1. Sealing

When you seal cracks and any other opening in your building’s foundation, it becomes difficult for the harmful gas to penetrate your home. This is what most contractors do when building. However, it should not be used alone but in combination with an installed system.

2. Room or House Pressurization

Here, a fan blows air into living areas or the basement from upstairs or outdoors. The idea behind this method is that the air will create pressure that will stop the gas from coming in. Many variables can affect this method, so it may not be your first choice.

3. Natural Ventilation

You can reduce radon levels by opening the windows, vents, and doors that are near the basement. However, this type provides a temporal solution because the levels will go back to what it was when you close the vents, doors, and windows again.

4. Using a Ventilator for Energy Recovery

This ventilator increases the ventilation in your home by bringing in the outdoor air while using cooled or heated air to cool or warm the air that is coming in. This method is very effective in improving the quality of indoor air. And when installed properly, the system can reduce radon up to seventy-five percent. 

Conclusion

Radon is the second major cause of death due to lung cancer. Therefore before buying a home, it is important to test for the current levels. There is no safe level, but ensuring that your home has a level that is far below 4.0 picocuries per liter of air is recommended. 

There are several methods of mitigating radon and they are classified as passive and active systems. If you plan to undertake a building project, ensure the contractor you choose contacts certified radon professionals. They will check your building and fit it with the right system for you. Some methods are more effective than others, while some work best when combined with another method.

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