Radon Action Month:
Do You Know What’s in the Air?
With a worldwide pandemic raging, we’re all more aware of what’s in the air we breathe, and how bacteria like viruses and allergens travel. But what’s in the air that we are NOT paying attention to right now, that can potentially harm both ourselves and our loved ones? One of the answers to that question is radon.
What is Radon?
According to the EPA, radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. It is colorless, odorless, and inert. It comes from the breakdown of radioactive elements like uranium or thorium that occur naturally in things like soil and rocks. As the decay process occurs, radon gas is released into the air. Radon disperses rapidly outdoors and therefore doesn’t present a health issue. It’s indoors – where we live and work – that it can cause problems.
Radon enters indoor spaces through holes or cracks in building foundations. It can also come from well water or building materials. Over time, exposure to radon can cause lung cancer. The EPA reports that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, after smoking. More than 21,000 people die each year from radon-related lung cancer.
The condition of your home plays no role in whether or not radon is present. Even well-sealed and properly maintained homes can have a radon problem.
How do you know if you have a radon problem?
The EPA recommends mitigation for homes if the radon level is 4 pCi/L (picocurries per liter) or more. Because there is no known safe level of exposure to radon, EPA also recommends considering radon mitigation in your home for radon levels between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L.
The EPA lists both Park and Summit Counties in Colorado as part of Zone 1: Counties with predicted average indoor radon screening levels greater than 4 pCi/L.
Therefore, we strongly recommend that you have your home tested and/or mitigated. Resources for both test kits and mitigation professionals are available here. The State of Colorado also offers assistance for qualified applicants to help reduce radon in your home.
The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to have it tested. You can perform the test yourself or hire a qualified professional to do it for you. Radon testing kits and other resources are available from a number of organizations – and sometimes, they are even free:
Local or County Health Departments:
- Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment – Radon Testing Information
- Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment Free Radon Test Kits
- Summit County Radon Information
- Summit County Environmental Health Department
- Park County Radon Information
- Park County Colorado Radon Fact Sheet
The National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University:
What Can You Do About Radon?
There are a variety of methods that can be used to mitigate a radon problem in existing homes.
The most common method for radon mitigation, this involves the installation of a pipe that penetrates the basement floor. This pipe exits the home at a point where a fan is mounted and runs upward to terminate above the eave of the roof. This allows for the collection of radon gas before it enters the house and funnels it straight up through the pipe and out of the home.
Similar systems can be used in homes with crawlspaces. It is most useful with foundations built on good aggregate or on highly permeable soil.
Drain Tile Suction
Water is drained away from the foundation by perforated pipes called drain tiles. Drain tiles are rarely completely filled with water. If these drain tiles form a partial or continuous loop around the house, they may be used to pull radon from the surrounding soil and vent it away from the house. Most homes will not have complete drain-tile loops.
Sump Pit Suction
A hole is cored in the sump lid, a rubber seal is added, and a suction point is created. This suction point is designed to use systems beneath the floor to essentially suck radon gas from the entire footprint of the house. A fan set to run 24/7/365 is installed to create a vacuum beneath the floor. The plumbing reroutes the radon gas to a safe location where it disperses outdoors.
Block Wall Suction or Block Wall Ventilation
The concrete blocks used to construct many basement walls contain hollow spaces connected both horizontally and vertically. Radon from the soil can enter the wall through joints, tiny pores, or cracks, and can travel through these connected spaces and enter the basement through similar openings on the interior side or through the openings in the top row of block. Block wall suction or ventilation draws radon from the hollow spaces within these concrete block walls before it enters the house (wall suction) or blows air into block walls to prevent radon from entering the walls (wall pressurization).
House Pressurization and Ventilation
Using a heat recovery ventilator – Replaces radon-laden indoor air with outdoor air. Best for situations where moderate reductions are needed and where winters are cold.
It’s recommended that holes or cracks in the foundation be sealed at the time of mitigation, and that sump pump holes are covered.
Most of these methods require installation by a qualified professional. You can also use any of the resources above to help find a technician or company that can help you resolve your radon problem.