A Summary of All You Need to Know
1. Health Risks
Exposure to Radon is a health risk that can increase your chances of lung cancer. Scientists are more certain about Radon health risks than effects from most other cancer-causing substances. Smoking combined with exposure to Radon is an especially dangerous health hazard (Radon particles attach themselves to smoke). Radon gas that is released into the air decays into radioactive particles that can be drawn into your lungs when you breathe. These particles release bursts of energy that can damage lung tissue faster than the body can regenerate them. One Alpha particle (a decay product of Radon) emits enough energy in electron volts that could boost it through up to 6 cells and create 300,000 chemical reactions.
Every time a cell is damaged, it has to repair itself and every time a cell repairs itself incorrectly, it has the possibility of becoming cancerous. Scientists believe that this form of radiation is approximately 20 times more damaging than x-rays. On average, Radon causes around 20,000 thousand lung cancer deaths in the US each year. The only way to detect Radon is to have your home tested.
Browse through the links at the bottom of the page to gather specific information.
Ask a professional, get several opinions and estimates! Then follow the EPA's criteria for a licensed Radon Mitigator. For more information visit the websites of the EPA or National Radon Safety Board. It is worth the time as an individual or homeowner to learn more about Radon.
2. Radon Sources
Radon is an odorless radioactive gas that results from the breakdown of Uranium in the soil. This is a natural disintegration and release of gas, which takes place over millions of years.
Uranium is present in most of the soil and rock in our area and in other countries around the world. It is typically concentrated in areas with lots of granite, shale, phosphate and limestone. Outside air has a concentration of 0.5 piCu/l (1/10,000 gram per liter of air), whereas the average indoor level in US homes is 1.3 piCu/l.
In Radon publications the EPA estimates that approximately 1 in 16 homes have elevated Radon levels and are a health risk. The outside air has a low concentration of Radon, which is harmless. However, your house occupies a certain surface area where Radon gas cannot move freely and accumulates under your concrete basement floor or crawl space. The thermal flow inside a house (warm air rises upward) creates a vacuum which draws Radon gas through cracks and tiny openings in the floor into your living area.
Not only this, but since the recent earthquake, Radon levels have been up.
Professional Certified Radon Technicians provide services, using very accurate equipment, called a Radon Monitor, which measures and analyzes Radon- in- air every hour during a 48-hour testing period (cost: $150). You can also check Radon levels yourself by using an alpha track detector, where you choose one month - up to 12 months to determine average Radon concentration. These detectors cost about $30 per kit including postage and a test report. Because these long-term tests are exposed to Radon for a longer period, they are considered more representative than the short-term carbon detector tests. The carbon test can be conducted in 2-7 days and cost $20 per kit. You can find these kits at local hardware stores and online. Radon test devices
4. Radon Mitigation
Once you know your Radon level, you can take the next step. Radon levels above 4 piCu/l can be mitigated to a safe level below 2 piCu/l. There are areas in and around Charlottesville that have higher Radon levels ranging from 4.1 to 16 piCu/l or in rare cases up to 100. Unfortunately, people don't find out about his until they are trying to sell their house. It is now mandatory in VA that Radon tests are being carried out as part of a home inspection. There are several approaches to reduce Radon levels in a house. The most common Radon Mitigation system (99% success rate) is called ACTIVE SOIL DEPRESSURERISATION (ASD) where a PVC pipe system with a fan draws air from underneath the concrete floor and discharges it safely above the roof.
Specialized services installing Radon Mitigation Systems range from $950 to $1,600 (including follow-up testing.) If you have the time, run a long term test to make sure that you really need a Reduction System.
Increased airflow from outside always helps to reduce Radon levels. There are air-exchange systems on the market that work very well with Radon levels around 4 piCu/l. In case of a crawl space (no concrete floor) installing a door fan or vent caps may be all you need.