Monday, January 10, 2011

January is National Radon Month!

I had no idea but we have been doing research on radon test kits and found out that it is national radon month!  Radon is radioactive gas that is harmful if found in high levels and is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.  While I know very little about radon, I thought I would post some info.  Steve and I assume that we live in a home that needs radon mitigation but we have never had our levels tested. 

      Here is some info about radon taken from the site:

What is radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas.  It is odorless, tasteless, and colorless.  It is a Noble gas that is inert (non-reactive) and is found throughout the world in varying concentrations. Radon forms naturally from the radioactive decay of Uranium in rock, soil, and water.  When radon gas is formed, it migrates through the soil to the air above.

Radon enters buildings through existing cracks in concrete floors or walls, open soil in crawl spaces, improperly or poorly sealed floor drains, or pipe entry points in floor slabs. Without significant ventilation and air exchange in crawl spaces and under the floor slab (sub slab ventilation), Radon builds up and enters the living spaces of homes and other structures. Radon is found in varying concentrations throughout the United States with moderate levels found in Oregon.

Why is radon harmful?

Radon decays and produces radioactive particles that become trapped in the lungs and may damage tissue. Over time, exposure to high levels of radon increases a person's risk of developing lung cancer. This is the only known health effect. For smokers, this lung cancer risk is even higher. It takes many years of exposure to radon before the onset of lung cancer. The higher the exposure, the greater the risk of induced lung cancer and the sooner it may occur.

How does radon compare with other radiation exposure?

Each of us is exposed to a certain amount of radiation each day, most of which comes from natural sources such as radon. Radon accounts for the largest percentage -- more than half -- of radiation exposure that the average person in the United States receives.

What if my test reveals high radon levels?

The important thing is not to panic.  Radon levels can fluctuate widely over time.  If your result is 4 pCi/L or higher, take a follow up test.  Follow up tests can be either a long-term or short-term:
  • Short-term tests can be used if you need  results quickly, or if the initial test results were double the EPA action limit (>8pCi/L).

  • Long-term tests will give a better year-round average of your radon concentration. Long-term tests should be used as a follow up to initial test results that are under 8 pCi/L. 

If the average of two short-term tests  is over the action limit, or if the results of a long term test are over the action limit, you should consider fixing your home.  You can reduce your risk of lung cancer by lowering your radon level.

How much radon is too much?

Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L).  The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that homes with radon levels at 4 pCi/L or above be fixed.  They also suggest that you consider taking action if the levels are between 2 to 4 pCi/L.  Recently, the World Health Organization recommended a more conservative action level of 2.7 pCi/L.

Radon gas is a natural part of the environment in which we live.  The national average for radon concentrations in the outdoor air is .4 pCi/L.  Although we can not entirely avoid radon gas, we can take steps to lower levels in our indoor environments.  Reducing radon exposure reduces the risk of developing lung cancer.

If radon levels are elevated in your home, contact a Radon Mitigation Company to fix the problem.  The Oregon Radon Program recommends that you utilize a company that is certified by the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB) or the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA).

Portland Online discussed how radon enters the home: through cracks and holes in the foundation and  through the water supply.  

Another website discussed that radon enters through
  • cracks in concrete slabs.
  • Spaces behind brick veneer walls that rest on uncapped hollow-brick foundation.
  • Pores and cracks in concrete blocks.
  • Floor-wall joists.
  • Exposed soil, as in crawl space or sump.
  • Weeping (drain) tile, if drained to open sump.
  • Mortar joints.
  • Loose fitting pipe penetrations.
  • Open tops of block walls.
  • Building materials, such as some rocks.
  • Well water from some wells.

    I just ordered the CR recommended long-term 3 month test (Accustar Alpha Track Test Kit AT 100) from amazon for $25 and hope to start testing this week.  You can also get a short-term test from the American Lunch Association in Oregon for just $14 including processing and shipping. We  had previously bought a $10 test from Home Depot that I just found out is:
  •  not rated well by consumer reports 
  • short-term test which is not as reliable 
  • the company charges an additional $30 to test and analyze what you collect)
... I will be returning the HD test.

So you have high levels of radon?
I read on one website that you can irradicate the radon on your home by just opening your windows for several hours 1x/week but another website said that your windows need to be open 24/7.  You can hire a company to irradicate your radon for under $2000 or you can do the work yourself.  If we have high radon levels, which we probably do, Steve plans to do the system himself so we will post info as we find it on putting in your own system.

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