Radon in Homes
Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive, cancer-causing gas. Radon gas cannot be seen or smelled, but if you live in the United States, odds are you have some level of radon gas in your home. The environmental protection agency has labeled radon as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. 14,400 deaths per year are attributed to radon caused lung cancer. It is estimated by the EPA that nearly one in three homes in the US have radon levels over 4 pCi/L, the recommended action level for radon exposure.
Where Does Radon Come from?
Radon is not produced; it is a naturally occurring byproduct from the natural breakdown of uranium. This is process is called radioactive decay, and it occurs under the surface in the earth. Radon is found in igneous rock and soils, meaning for homeowners, when the foundation for your home was dug out, loads of radon gas was released and disturbed. The problem with radon is that it is a single atom element, meaning its tiny. How tiny is radon exactly? Well radon can easily pass through building materials such as gypsum board, concrete block, mortar, sheathing paper, wood paneling and even most plastics.
Once radon enters the home it doesn’t want to come out. Our homes are built so well that once radon particles enter it is difficult for them to leave, which will raise your radon exposure level. It is important to remember there is no such thing as a “safe” level of radon gas, it is a very dangerous element. However, it is in your best interest to avoid as much radon gas as possible.
To put things in perspective, a family whose home has radon levels of 4 pCi/L is exposed to nearly thirty-five times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family were to be standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site. This goes to show, the EPA’s recommended action level of 4 pCi/L is still an incredibly dangerous level. Radon tests are very common place in real estate; nearly every home sale is contingent on a radon test. In real estate, the acceptable level of radon is 2.8 pCi/L.
Should I Test for Radon?
Testing for radon is the only way to know for sure of your home’s radon levels. There are no immediate symptoms that will alert you to the presence of radon gasses. It usually takes many years of exposure before any symptoms surface. However, when they do, the symptoms of radon gas are deadly, and often the damage is irreversible. Radon is a national environmental health problem; elevated radon levels have been found in every state. The United States EPA estimates there are over eight million homes throughout the country with elevated radon levels. It is common sense to want to protect your family and yourself against radon gas. The first step is getting your home tested. Remember, there is no such thing as a safe level of radon gas!