Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Radon is an odorless, invisible, tasteless and radioactive gas that is all around us.
Radon is released naturally and continuously from rocks originating in the earth’s crust. Many rocks contain at least small amounts of radioactive uranium, including familiar rocks like granite and shale. When uranium within rocks decays, the radioactive by-products include radium and radon gas. Radon, as a gas, can easily move between layers of rock, soil and sediment until it reaches the surface. When it mixes with air, the level of radioactivity decreases quickly.
Why is radon unavoidable?
The natural process of decaying uranium and the release of radon has continued for millions of years. Human activities can cause variation in radon exposure through mining, drilling, digging and construction. Different levels of radon can be found in different states and even different counties within states. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified zones of risk in terms of exposure to radon. Pennsylvania is among those states with higher levels. Most significantly, radon levels can vary from house to house in the same block, due to construction differences and other features.
Since radon is naturally present in the soil, it can easily enter into homes and buildings, through cracks in walls and foundations, especially in the lower levels. In fact, due to differences in air pressure, and the fact that warm air rises, enclosed buildings actually pull radon inside where it may accumulate. Once inside, the tiny radioactive particles of radon can easily attach to dust or smoke. When inhaled into the lungs, the radioactive particles may cause harmful changes at a cellular level, including lung cancer. In fact, exposure to radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking. Combined exposure to both cigarette smoke and radon is especially deadly. The good news is that the risks from exposure to radon can largely be reduced through simpleradon mitigation efforts.
What is a safe level of radon?
Results of radon tests are expressed as parts of picocuries (a radioactive measurement) per liter of air. The average U.S. indoor measurement is 1.3 picocuries per liter of air. (1.3 pCi/L). The average outside measurement is .4 pCi/L. There is no agreement about a safe level of radon exposure, but the EPA suggests radon mitigation efforts if your home tests above 4 pCi/L.
The first step in protecting yourself from radon exposure is to have your home tested to see if radon mitigation measures should be taken to make your home safe from the dangers of radon gas.
Radon testing kits can be purchased on-line, in home improvement stores or from certified radon specialists such as Next Step Environmental Services LLC. The EPA has determined that an indoor measurement of 4 pCi/L or above suggests a need for radon mitigation. At the very least, you should retest and consult with a certified radon specialist if the results continue to exceed 4 pCi/L. Although radon in your home will never be totally eliminated, simple and economical remediation performed by a certified radon mitigation professional can reduce radon levels below 2 pCi/L.
So now what?
Radon gas is part of nature and we are exposed to it on a daily basis. It is easy to test for radon in homes and other buildings, either with a home-testing kit, or by hiring a certified professional. Next Step Environmental Service LLC is an excellent resource for self-testing materials, professional inspections and testing and effective and economical remediation. And, since higher levels of radon combined with smoking make you even more vulnerable to lung cancer, if you are a smoker, you have another reason to stop!