Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that can pose a serious health risk to humans. It’s formed when uranium and radium decay in soil, rock, and water. Radon is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that can seep into homes and buildings through cracks and other openings in the foundation, walls, and floors. It is a carcinogen, meaning it can cause cancer and specifically lung cancer.
When radon decays, it shoots off alpha particles. These are small, heavy, electrically charged, sub-atomic particles consisting of two protons and two neutrons. If an alpha particle strikes the chromosomes in a lung cell, it could alter the way that cell reproduces. Our immune systems should recognize and destroy these mutant cells before they multiply over the next 10 to 20 years into recognizable cancerous growth. Some immune systems are better than others. Because of these inherent differences, radon affects everyone differently.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that radon exposure causes approximately 10% of all lung cancer cases worldwide. In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon exposure causes around 21,000 lung cancer deaths yearly, making it the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
Radon is more prevalent in some areas than others. The gas is found in many homes and buildings across the United States. Radon can also accumulate in areas with poor ventilation, such as basements and crawl spaces.
How does Radon get into the House?
Houses act like large chimneys. As the air in the house warms, it rises to leak out the attic openings and around the upper floor windows. This creates some suction at the lowest level of the house, pulling radon out of the soil and into the home. You can test this on a cold day by opening a top-floor window an inch. You will notice warm air from the house rushing out that opening; however, if you open a basement window an inch, you will feel the cold outside air rushing in. This suction pulls radon out of the soil and into the house.
You might think caulking the cracks and the openings in the basement floor will stop radon from entering the house. It is unlikely that caulking the cracks and joints will permanently prevent radon from entering the home. In many cases, the radon levels will still likely remain unchanged.
Is Radon an issue in Raleigh, NC?
Radon is a concern in Raleigh, NC, and other parts of North Carolina. The state of North Carolina has been designated as a Zone 1 area by the EPA, which means it has the highest potential for elevated indoor radon levels.
The risk of developing lung cancer increases as the concentration and length of exposure to radon increases. Many scientists believe children may run an even greater risk from radon exposure than adults, and smokers are at a greater risk than non-smokers. How do you find out if your space has elevated levels?
Testing for Radon
Testing is the only way to determine if a home or building has elevated levels.
Testing The Air
Our team uses continuous radon monitors to provide more accurate and reliable results versus passive devices – such as charcoal canisters, alpha track detectors, and charcoal liquid scintillation devices.
Testing typically takes between 2 and 7 days to complete and involves placing a calibrated continuous radon monitor in the lowest level of the home or building. The monitor measures the amount of radon in the air and provides a digital readout of the radon levels in pCi/L (picocuries per liter). If the reading is above 4 pCi/L, the EPA recommends further action to reduce radon levels.
Testing The Water
Radon can also be in water. The gas can enter a home or building through the water supply and be released into the air when using water for household activities such as showering, washing dishes, and doing laundry. Radon in water is not as common as radon in air, but it can still lead to an increase in indoor radon levels and an associated risk of lung cancer.
Testing in water is recommended if a home or building gets its water from a private well or if the local water supply is known to have high levels.
Once the radon testing is complete, we will share a report of the radon levels in your space. If the levels are above 4 pCi/L, we will provide recommendations for radon mitigation, including sub-slab depressurization (SSD), active soil depressurization (ASD), an Airaider, or sealing cracks and openings.
Reducing Radon Levels
If radon levels in a home or building are above 4 pCi/L, take steps to reduce the levels. There are several methods for reducing radon levels, including:
- Sub-slab depressurization: This method involves installing a pipe through the foundation floor and venting the radon gas to the outside. A fan is installed to create negative pressure under the foundation, which draws the radon gas out of the soil and vents it outside.
- Active soil depressurization: An ASD system typically consists of a PVC pipe that is inserted into the soil below the foundation of the building. A fan is then attached to the pipe to create a negative pressure under the foundation, which draws the radon gas out of the soil and up through the pipe. The radon gas is then vented safely outside the building, where it quickly dissipates into the atmosphere.
- Airraider: This system is installed at the point of entry of the water supply to the building, ensuring that all water sources are treated. They require little maintenance and have a long lifespan, making them a reliable choice for radon mitigation. Additionally, Airaider systems are environmentally friendly, as they do not require the use of chemicals or other harmful substances to remove radon from water.
- Sealing cracks and openings: Sealing cracks and openings in the foundation, walls, and floors can help prevent radon from entering the home or building.
Throughout the mitigation process, we will work closely with the homeowner or realtor to ensure they understand the steps and are comfortable with the progress. First Choice Radon Remediation will also conduct follow-up testing to ensure that radon levels are effectively reduced to safe levels. Ultimately, the goal is to provide homeowners with peace of mind, knowing that their homes are safe from the risks associated with radon exposure.
Mitigating in commercial spaces can be more complex than in residential settings, as commercial buildings often have unique HVAC systems, ventilation needs, and layouts. Our team will work with the property manager, contractor, or owner to develop a customized mitigation plan that takes into account the specific needs of the building. Solutions may include sub-slab depressurization systems, crawl space ventilation, or other techniques tailored to the building’s unique characteristics. We will also conduct follow-up testing to ensure that radon levels have been effectively reduced to safe levels, providing peace of mind to the occupants of the building.
How to find a professional?
When hiring a qualified radon mitigation professional to install a radon reduction system, the professional should be certified by the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST) or the National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP).
Why test for radon?
In conclusion, by identifying and mitigating radon, property owners and managers can help prevent lung cancer and other serious health issues associated with radon exposure to residents and loved ones. Take proactive steps today to protect your families, tenants, and employees by getting your spaces tested. Radon testing is a simple process and provides peace of mind that indoor air quality is safe. We must prioritize the safety and health of those in our homes and buildings, and taking the necessary steps to test for and mitigate is an important part of that process.