Radon is a gas that causes lung cancer by building up to dangerous levels inside homes and other buildings. Radon gas occurs naturally and forms when uranium breaks down. As radon decays it releases radioactive byproducts that are inhaled and can cause lung cancer. Exposure to high levels of radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and is responsible for an estimated 21,000 deaths annually.
Radon can be found anywhere and enters a dwelling through cracks in walls, floors, foundations, and other openings. When it gets trapped inside, it can build up to dangerous concentrations. Therefore, sealing your home can significantly reduce the radon levels. However, you may need to install a separate radon abatement system in your home if levels remain high.
The only way to know if your home has elevated radon levels is to have it tested. Even if your neighbor’s home is affected, it does not mean that yours will be as levels are mainly dependent on the soil below the home. Other factors that affect radon levels include precipitation like rain and snow and barometric pressure. These can cause levels to vary from month to month or day to day. Therefore, both short- and long-term tests are available. Both tests are easy to use, inexpensive, and available at home improvement centers. However, it is recommended that if the do-it-yourself tests indicate high levels of radon, you have a professional come out and test the air in your home.
There are two basic types of radon tests, short and long term. Short-term tests are created to measure radon levels for anywhere from two to 90 days, depending on the device. Long-term detectors are designed to determine the average concentration for a period that is longer than 90 days. Since radon levels tend to vary, a long-term test tends to be a better indicator of the average radon level.
Radon mitigation is either a system or steps that are designed to reduce radon concentrations in the indoor air of a home or building. The EPA, recommends that action be taken to reduce the radon levels if test results show a level of is 4 pCi/L or higher.
As stated above, the primary benefit to doing so is reducing the risk of developing lung cancer. Standard radon reduction systems are usually effective within 24 hours and maintain low levels as long as the fan is operating. Another potential benefit of having one of these systems installed is a reduced humidity level in the basement of your home.
If you have not done so before, it is best to consider finding out if there is a radon problem and having it corrected as part of the final preparations to sell a home. This allows both the current occupants and the buyers to reap the benefits of reduced risk. In addition, if the buyers find it during final inspection, it could hold up the sale of the home or cause the amount you receive from it to be decreased substantially.