Radon gas is a natural yet radioactive byproduct of uranium and radium breaking down in the soil. It’s released into the atmosphere and attaches to particles in the air. It then gets inhaled and over time builds up in lungs.
Radon enters our homes from all types of foundations. Basements, slabs and crawlspaces are all at risk for potential elevated radon levels.
Radon enters your home through basement or foundation access points or cracks and it is entirely odorless, tasteless and colorless. Human sensory perception simply does not allow the detection of radioactive radon gas. Couple that with the fact that few of us open our windows anymore, and homes are built air-tight for energy efficiency so once radon enters our homes, it stays.
Radon is a radioactive, naturally-occurring gas in the environment. Upon entering homes, it attaches to dust and other particles in the air which when inhaled over a sustained period of time can become a threat to your health. The radioactive particles can attach to healthy lung tissue causing abnormal tissue growth and ultimately lung cancer.
In 2005, then U.S. Surgeon Richard H. Carmona issued a Health Advisory that alerted Americans of the possible health hazards of radon exposure inside their houses. He stressed that more than 20,000 people die of radon-related lung cancer every year.
As such, Americans were encouraged to conduct radon testing in their homes to determine if indoor radon levels are safe. If the tests reveal that the radon level is 4 pCi/L or higher, Dr. Carmona strongly urged homeowners to find solutions that keep it at a healthy level.
To date, there are two studies that found direct evidence linking radon in homes and lung cancer; one of them is a North American study, while the other comes from Europe. Early in the debate about radon-related health risks, some experts questioned whether people could use the findings of occupational studies to calculate the radon risks in a home setting.
The two research papers, according to Tom Kelly, the former Director of Indoor Environments Division of the EPA, end the doubts about the risks of radon in American homes. Radon, he stressed, is carcinogenic and a health risk for families.
Both papers combined and analyzed the findings from several existing studies. They also affirmed the radon health risks that were predicted by occupational studies of exposed underground miners. These studies confirm that breathing in radon — even at low levels — can lead to lung cancer.
(2009) The World Health Organization (WHO) says radon causes up to 15% of lung cancers worldwide. In an effort to reduce the rate of lung cancer around the world, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched an international radon project to help countries increase awareness, collect data and encourage action to reduce radon-related risks.
(2016) You can’t see radon. And you can’t smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home. Radon is estimated to cause many thousands of deaths each year. That’s because when you breathe air containing radon, you can get lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
Radon can be found all over the U.S. Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon can be found all over the U.S. It can get into any type of building—homes, offices, and schools—and result in a high indoor radon level. But you and your family are most likely to get your greatest exposure at home, where you spend most of your time.
Central Indiana is one of the worst regions in the country for radon exposure due to our soil composition.
The counties in BLUE on the map are at an elevated risk
(click map for full image)
The Indiana State Department of Health estimates that nearly one out of three homes in Indiana has radon levels higher than 4pCi/L. These elevated radon levels can be present in any type of home — old and new, large or cozy, drafty or insulated, with or without a basement. Indiana’s local geology is a major factor. Radon levels depend largely on soil composition.
In fact, the EPA classified counties across the country into three radon zones, which indicate the estimated indoor radon level. Counties in Indiana fall in the two highest zones. On this map, the areas in blue — Zone 1 — have a high potential for radon in the soil (an estimated average indoor radon level higher than 4 pCi/L), while areas in green — Zone 2 — have a moderate potential (between 2 and 4 pCi/L) for radon in the soil.
This doesn’t mean that homeowners in Zone 2 should be complacent. In fact, houses with high radon levels have been found not just in all areas of Indiana but across homes in many other states. Moreover, the changes in the building and environment can affect the radon levels, so people can’t say they’re safe unless they conduct radon air testing at home. On top of that, the construction materials and how the home was built also affect radon levels, so your neighbor’s radon levels are not a conclusive indication of yours.
As such, it is best if each homeowner checks the radon levels in their properties. The EPA itself stresses that all homes should be tested, regardless of their zones.
In other states, every property that’s bought or sold is required by law to undergo radon testing. Some states including Indiana though, have no such laws for homes or buildings, so a lot of homeowners aren’t aware of the high risks or the need for radon testing. The problem is, as this map shows, the soil in Indiana, in particular, has a higher potential for radon than other states, which means your home has a strong chance of elevated radon levels. However, that doesn’t mean other states aren’t affected as well. Just like Indiana, a myriad of states have similar types of soil that may pose a high potential for high radon levels.
Major health organizations, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Lung Association, stress that radon is behind thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. And while the threat is greater among smokers, radon can also compromise the health of non-smokers in the state.
The good news is residential radon testing is easy and affordable in all states in America. And if you find out that your home harbors harmful radon levels, there are affordable but effective solutions. Modern radon mitigation systems can reduce the radon levels to 2 pCi/L or lower.
One of the most common residential radon test types you can find is the activated carbon test. Using this technique, a small canister of activated charcoal is placed in the lowest livable area of a home or commercial building (the basement, if you have one) for several days. After exposure, the canister is sealed and sent to a laboratory for analysis. Charcoal canister tests help you determine the radon concentration present at the time of the test.
Other radon test devices for indoor air include electronic continuous radon monitors (CRM’s), which can be used to detect and document radon levels on an hourly basis. This type of test is especially valuable when you are involved in purchasing a home and want to prevent tampering with the test device. Certain monitors can also be used to locate primary radon entry points.
As the EPA recommends, we place the test device(s) in the lowest level of the home that could be used regularly, whether it is finished or unfinished. We offer four distinctly different radon testing options that are all EPA-approved. Short-term and long-term tests are available. Short-term measurements lasting between two and 90 days, while longer term tests are considered more accurate as they remove seasonal or weather changes.
The goal of radon mitigation is to effectively move air from underneath the home’s foundation and exhaust it outside. Basements are the most prevalent, but crawl spaces and cement slabs also have high radon activity and that’s where mitigation installation takes place. We offer four systems:
Each system includes a post-mitigation test.
Mitigations options will vary as no two homes are alike. To learn more about each system and what option would work best in your home, contact us today. We fully guarantee our systems to maintain radon levels BELOW the EPA recommended level for 5 years after installation date. At Pure Air Environmental, we work hard to ensure the satisfaction of our clients while making sure their family and homes are safe. To us, every breath matters.