You’ve probably heard the warnings about radon and have seen radon test kits at hardware stores. Whether you have an older home or a newer one, radon is a real danger to those who reside in it, causing potentially deadly lung cancer. It’s odorless and colorless and you could live in your house for many years with it, unaware that it’s making you sick.
What is Radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas found in the ground, in rocks and soil. Uranium in the earth begins to break down and as it does, it becomes other elements, one of which is radon. As the radon decomposes, it releases radon gas.
Outside, radon gas comes out of the ground and into the air and doesn’t cause any harm because it gets dispersed and is “watered down” in the abundance of air. In your home, however, it becomes trapped. Insulated homes that are good at keeping the elements out are also good at keeping this particular element in. It is most often found building up in basements or crawl spaces where it seeps in through cracks in the foundation or areas that may not have been properly sealed during construction. It also gets into the water and comes through the pipes in your showers, sinks, and hot water tank.
What Harm Does It Do?
Radon is radioactive and causes cancer. It’s a little gross to think that our outermost layer of skin is made up of dead skin cells but this beneficial layer actually forms a protective barrier against radon exposure through our skin. Unfortunately, our lungs don’t have this protection. When we breathe radon gas, it’s radioactive particles lodge themselves in the lining of our lungs where they sit and emit radiation, damaging the lung cells around them, eventually leading to cancer.
While most radon-related lung cancers happen in people who are exposed to both cigarette smoke and radon, it causes lung cancer in many non-smokers as well. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, radon is the #1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, killing 21,000 people a year.
How Do I Know If I Have Radon?
Unfortunately, because you can’t see or smell it, it’s not easily detected. After long exposure, you may show the early signs of lung cancer such as wheezing, shortness of breath, a persistent cough, coughing up blood, and chest pain. The good news is that there are radon tests that can be done to determine whether or not you have radon and measure it to see if it’s at high enough levels to cause cancer.
These tests can be bought in stores. You put them in the area you want to be tested, leave them for a period of time, and mail them to a testing facility. Because radon is released over time, the longer the test sits, the more accurate the results. Foundation repair companies can also perform the tests.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, if the levels of radon above 4 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter of air), you should take steps to mitigate the radon gas using a radon mitigation system.
What is a Radon Mitigation System?
Radon is released through the air and through water systems so there are mitigation systems that deal with each problem.
If there is radon in your water, an aeration system is most effective. A large water tank is placed along the water system, and as the water passes through the system it is aerated, removing nearly all of the radon that is pulled out of the house using fans and pipes.
For radon in the air of your home, there are several options. Most homes have either a basement, slab, or crawl space. One of the first steps in radon mitigation is to seal the floors and walls of the basement using a radon sealer. This will lessen the amount of radon coming in in the first place. It’s usually used in conjunction with other methods.
Sub Slab Mitigation System
Pipes are inserted into the slab or basement floor and the system literally sucks the radon out of the soil beneath your home and blows it outside.
Drain Tile Suction
Uses an existing sump pump by capping it and creating suction for mitigation while still allowing the sump pump to do its job.
Block Wall Suction
Used in homes that have hollow block walls, this sucks radon through the walls and out of the house.
For houses with crawl spaces, this system uses plastic sheeting to seal the walls and floor of the crawl space and suction fans to suck out the radon gas.
There are other ways of mitigation including simple ventilation by installing windows and vents and opening them, pressurization by blowing air into the basement or a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) which is a heat exchange system that brings in outside air.
A radon problem is not something that you should put off. At Adams Foundation Repair, we not only fix cracks in your foundation, we can also install radon mitigation systems to keep dangerous radon gas out of your home. With a professionally-installed mitigation system, you can rest assured that radon levels are below the danger mark. If you think you may have radon, call Adams today at (636) 485-8018 and see how we can help clear the air.