Whether you are in the process of buying a home or you have been living in your home for some time, you will want to ensure that your home is safe and doesn’t present any dangers. One issue that can easily get neglected by homeowners is radon. Much like carbon monoxide, radon can be hard to detect without a specialized device or hiring a professional to conduct the test for you. However, prolonged radon exposure can pose a significant risk to your health and your family.
What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from uranium found in the earth. During the process of half-life decay, uranium releases radon gas like a by-product. Radon is found in the atmosphere and the air we breathe, but usually, it disperses to negligible levels in the open air.
However, the problem associated with radon is when it enters and remains inside buildings, like your home, where you spend significant time and face extended periods of exposure. The gas primarily enters your home through cracks in the foundation and other openings. Radon can also find its way in through well water and building materials like granite and concrete, though these are not primary concerns. Once it is inside, a well-insulated home can trap the radon gas for extended periods.
Health Risks and Safety Concerns
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and is responsible for thousands of deaths each year. Radon is only behind in cigarette smoking as the leading cause of lung cancer. The radioactive particles present in radon gas do severe damage to the sensitive tissue in your lungs when inhaled and can lead to cancer developing. There are no immediate symptoms of radon exposure, as the gas is scentless and colorless, making it hard to know if you have been exposed to dangerous levels in your home.
The danger of radon comes from long-term exposure to high levels. The EPA recommends employing a radon mitigation system in your home if the radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. If your home has lower levels than that, you may feel better about health risks and opt for a mitigations system even if they are below that benchmark. If you have young children in your home, it’s a good idea to test radon levels in the house and prepare potential mitigation plans. Children are more susceptible to radon gas than adults as the exposure can be more detrimental and severe when they are in their developing years when their bodies are more vulnerable to environmental impacts.
Simply put, the only way to determine radon levels in your home is by testing the air. Whether you are building or buying a new home or living in your home for years and you haven’t tested recently, it’s always a good idea to test the levels of radon and monitor that they remain below harmful levels. The essential function of any testing kit begins with placing a device in your home to collect air samples for a period. You will send those samples into a laboratory to be analyzed for traces of radon, and this service is often included with the kit. There are few options available to conduct these tests:
Conducting the Test Yourself
You can go to your local hardware store or find many retailers online to purchase a home radon testing kit to administer yourself. Typically, short-term tests record data for a few days, and long-term tests record data for months. Long-term tests are more accurate, as radon levels can fluctuate daily and even across different seasons. Whichever way you decide to go, most options for radon testing kits are relatively inexpensive. Most home tests will cost you less than $50.
Hiring a Professional
If you would rather have someone with more expertise handle the job for you, numerous radon professionals can take care of the testing on your behalf. Some home inspectors even offer this service as an ancillary offering to their inspection, so you can get the test covered before you sign on the house. A benefit of hiring a professional is that they can assist with the next steps of handling mitigation options if high levels of radon are found. Hiring a professional to conduct your test will usually cost around $100-$800.
If your radon tests return with high levels found in your home, you will want to consider various radon mitigation options. If you plan to build a new home, you can ask your contractor to install radon-resistant features during the build. More commonly, when you buy an existing home, you can install many of the same features, but they may take more work to install.
One of the most common mitigation systems is a combination vent pipe and fan, with any cracks sealed to ensure the radon is appropriately transported from the ground out safely through the vent and away from the house. There are various other mitigation options, such as plastic sheeting and soil suction, all of which focus on the proper transport of radon while keeping the home sealed safely. Creating these features can reduce the amount of radon in your home by up to 99%. Each home is different, but installing a radon mitigation system will usually cost you around $1000-$4000, depending on the features of your home.
Radon poses a real risk to the long-term health and safety of your family. However, the good news is that you can easily find out if there is an issue of high radon levels in your home and plan an effective plan to solve the problem. With most home maintenance like this, the sooner you get it completed, the sooner you have more peace of mind about your home.