Mitigating Radon in Your Home

Radon is a gas that can inhale into your home and cause lung cancer. If you smoke, the risk of exposure to radon is even higher. There is no safe level of radon exposure. You can reduce the radon levels in your house. There are several ways to do this. These methods prevent radon from entering the building or replace contaminated indoor air. Each method works differently. The results depend upon the unique characteristics of your house, the level of radon in your home and the routes of radon entry. You may have to combine methods to achieve acceptable results.

Most of the time radon infiltrates homes through soil beneath the foundation. There are two basic ways to address this problem: a) The use of a system that pulls radon from the soil through a pipe and vents it outside or into an attic; and b) Venting through a basement floor. Most mitigators recommend the former, as it is more reliable and has a lower cost than the latter.

A small amount of mitigating radon can also enter your home through water. Radon is soluble in water and can escape into the air as the water flows out of your home’s plumbing. Radon concentrations in well water are usually lower than in surface water (from lakes and rivers).

Some building materials give off small amounts of radon. Concrete, wallboard and granite countertops are examples of these. However, the amount they give off is generally very low and do not pose a significant threat to health. Certain occupational activities can increase your exposure to radon, such as underground mining or working with phosphate fertilizers.

Your health care provider can help you determine if your level of radon is dangerous. You should get regular health checks, such as X-rays of your chest. Tell your doctor if you have had any symptoms of radon exposure, such as lung irritation, a persistent cough or shortness of breath.

The EPA recommends that you take action when radon levels reach 4 picocuries per cubic meter of air (pCi/L). The World Health Organization has set an action level of 2 pCi/L.

Once a mitigation contractor has fixed your home, it is important to test again to make sure that the level of radon has been reduced. You can do this yourself or you can contact a professional testing company. You should also retest your home when you move in and after major renovations. You should retest after your mitigation system has been in place for at least 30 days. This will ensure that the radon level is as low as possible. You can also test your home at any other time you want, preferably during periods of calm weather when the system is not in operation. Test kits are available at most hardware stores and some home improvement centers. These kits are simple to use and inexpensive. You should test at the lowest level of your home, such as a crawl space or a basement.