January is National Radon Action Month and it is a good reminder to check your home for unsafe levels of radon. Read on for answers to the most common questions we get about radon and your home.
What is radon?
Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. The gas forms from the decay of radioactive elements such as uranium. You can find these elements in different amounts in soil and rock. The radon gas in the soil and rock can move into the air and into underground water and surface water.
Radon can be found at very low levels in outdoor air and in drinking water from rivers and lakes. It can be found at higher levels in the air in houses and buildings. It can also be found in water from underground sources such as well water.
How are people exposed to radon?
Exposure to radon comes from being indoors in homes, offices, schools and other buildings with high levels of radon. The level of radon in the building depends on the characteristics of the rock and soil in the area. The gas given off by soil or rock can enter buildings through cracks in the floors or walls, construction joints, or gaps in foundations around pipes, wires or pumps.
Radon levels are usually highest in basements or crawl spaces since this level is the closest to the soil. Meaning, that people spending more time in basement rooms at home or work are at the greatest risk of exposure. Our team recommends that if your have a bedroom or office in your basement to check the radon levels. Since this usually means a family member will be spending a lot of time in this lower level.
How does radon effect us?
When someone breathes in radon gas, it goes into their lungs, exposing them to small amounts of radiation. This can lead to damage to the cells in the lining of the lungs. It can also increase a person’s risk of lung cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, behind smoking. It is estimated that close to 21,000 deaths each year are from radon.
How much radon is too much?
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average indoor radon level is about 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). You should take action to lower the levels of radon if they are 4.0 pCi/L or higher. The EPA estimates that nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the United States has elevated radon levels.
Since radon is odorless, the only way to know the radon levels in your home are testing for it. You can purchase a home testing kit at a hardware or home improvement store for about $20 to $30. Or you can hire a certified testing company to come in and test.
Are you wondering what to do about radon when purchasing a new home? You can elect to test radon at the time of making an offer on the home. We would then hire a professional or choose to add the radon test to your home inspection.
How to mitigate Radon?
The most common method to lower the radon levels in your home is to install a radon mitigation system. Most often this consists of a vent pipe system with a fan installed at the top. The fan pulls the radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside.
As with most home repairs, the cost of installing this system can vary widely. The homes construction and any provisions already made are the biggest factors. Many newer construction homes are built with the vent pipe in place and just need the fan installed. Older homes may need to have a hole drilled in the basement floor to install the pipe.
If you have more questions about Radon in your home you can connect with the Emmily Longenecker Team. You can call us at 717-450-7090 or schedule a time to meet with a team member. We are always available to answer your questions.