Indoor Air Toxins 101: What You Need to Know About Radon

radon risks - sofa in living room

Radon risks should be top of mind for every homeowner.

If you do only one thing for your home, my hope would be that you will have your home tested for radon gas. Exposure to and inhalation of radon gas is the number-one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared radon gas in homes to be a worldwide health risk.

Radon gas is odorless, tasteless, and invisible, and therefore cannot be sensed by your brain. Radon risks are so high because it is radioactive; it is produced by the slow decay of uranium found naturally in soil and water. Radon is found in outdoor air in very low levels—0.4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter)—but can infiltrate your home through foundation cracks and accumulate in the indoor air. The average radon concentration inside American homes has been estimated to be 1.3 pCi/L, but may be much higher. The EPA has designated 4 pCi/L as the acceptable upper limit for radon concentration of indoor air.

Radon is breathed in with air and can wreak havoc on the cells that line the airways in your lung. As with many types of radiation, the development of cancer isn’t dose dependent. Therefore, it is best to limit radon risks in your home as much as possible.

Every home, everywhere, should be tested for radon gas, particularly in the basement. For many home buyers, mortgage companies require a radon inspection before approving a mortgage. Radon tests can be performed as either short-term or long-term tests. Short-term tests range from 2 to 90 days whereas the long-term tests accumulate data for over 90 days. A long-term test will provide information regarding your home’s year-round average radon level. A long-term test is ideal, but a short-term test should suffice. If radon levels in your home lie between 2 and 4 pCi/L or higher, a process called remediation will help reduce the radon concentration in your indoor air. A radon specialist can install venting in the affected areas of your home to allow the gas to diffuse back outside.

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