According to the American Cancer Society, radon is, “a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that forms naturally from the decay of radioactive elements, such as uranium, which are found in different amounts in soil and rock throughout the world. Radon gas in the soil and rock can move into the air and into underground water and surface water.”
Exposure to radon generally occurs when one is indoors. Radon levels are usually highest in the basement or crawl space because the amount that one is exposed to depends on the makeup of the rock and soil in the area. Furthermore, radon levels vary greatly in different parts of the United States, as well as within neighborhoods. Moreover, elevated radon levels have been found in every state.
While cigarette smoking is by far the most common cause of lung cancer, being exposed to radon for a long period of time is the second leading source. In fact, scientists estimate that approximately 20,000 people die each year as a result of exposure to elevated levels of radon. This is due to the fact that radon breaks down into tiny radioactive elements. These particles can lodge in the lining of your lungs, where they give off radiation. This radiation, in turn, can damage the lung cells and, over the course of time, lead to lung cancer.
While no level of radon exposure is considered completely safe, the EPA recommends that some sort of radon remediation be done in your home if the level average 4 picocuries per liter (pCI/L) or higher. A pCI is the measure of the rate of radioactive decay of radon gas or the tiny particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe.
There are do-it-yourself kits available in most home improvement stores or you can call to have professional testing done. Licensed testers are usually hired when an over the counter test shows high levels and/or a home is listed for sale and either the seller or the buyer want to ensure there are no problems with the property prior to the deal being final.
Radon mitigation covers any actions taken in order to reduce the amount of radon gas concentrations that are found in the breathing zones of homes and buildings, as well as removal of radon from water supplies. Reduction of radon in the air is usually accomplished through ventilation or by increasing the number of air changes that occur per hour in a building. Aeration and activated charcoal are available to remove radon from domestic water supplies.
The American Cancer society offers a variety of suggestions in order to reduce radon gas levels in your home. They include sealing cracks in your floors and walls and increasing ventilation through sub-slab depressurization through the use of pipes and fans. Furthermore, the EPA recommends using a state or nationally certified contractor to install a radon reduction system because lowering high radon levels requires technical expertise and special skills. The two agencies have come together in order to set the standard for participants seeking certification.