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Radon Gas: What It Is, Its Dangers & How to Keep Your Home Safe

If you’ve never had your home radon levels tested, don’t put it off anymore. Radon is a colorless gas that has no taste or odor, produced by decay of uranium deep underground. Radon rising from the earth may seep into houses through cracks and other openings, then accumulate inside the structure. Inhalation of radon gas is a proven health hazard and is the second most common cause of lung cancer.

What’s Your Radon Risk?

Because no U.S. locale is totally free of radon, home levels should be tested to determine if this air quality hazard exists. This is strongly recommended if your residence hasn’t ever been tested and also before purchasing a new house. Testing can be performed by contractors who provide this service routinely. Or, DIY test kits are also available for homeowners. Radon testing is available in two categories:

  • Short-term testing utilizes an absorbent charcoal canister exposed to air inside the home for 48 hours, then sent to a lab for analysis.
  • Long-term testing—usually more accurate than short-term tests—utilizes a method called alpha track detection to measure indoor levels and requires 90 days of exposure inside the house.

Radon levels are measured by picoCuries per liter (pCi/L). The average for a U.S. residence is 1.3 pCi/L. Environmental Protection Agency recommendations call for mitigation procedures if the level exceeds 4 pCi/L. Other sources apply a more stringent standard and recommend mitigation if the tested level is greater than 2 pCi/L.

Bad News/Good News

If your radon levels exceed these standards, your house requires alterations to make it safe for long-term occupation. The good news is that, if high radon levels are detected, virtually any house can be made safe with a few basic modifications:

  • Sealing air leaks in the home’s foundation and crawl space.
  • A plastic vapor barrier placed over soil under the house.
  • Installation of pipes beneath the slab foundation or inside the crawl space to collect and safely exhaust radon gas migrating upwards from the ground.

Contact the Beyer Boys for more information about testing home radon levels to ensure health and safety.