Radon Facts

Dated: 10/23/2017

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Radon is an odorless, colorless radioactive gas, whichis formed by the natural breakdown of uranium. Radon can be found in highconcentrations in rock and soil that contains granite, shale,phosphate and uranium, or even fill soil containing industrialwaste. Radon gas moves through the soil toward theearth’s surface where it either safely dissipates in outdoorair or seeps into buildings through cracks and gaps in thebuilding’s foundation. Radon can also be introduced into abuilding or home through the water-supply, particularly ifthere is a private well. Certain building products, such asthe stone used for a fireplace, can also be a source ofradon gas.


Research indicates that once trapped inside a home, radoncan accumulate to the point where it can be harmful to theoccupants. Radioactiveproducts become attached to airborne particles, which canbe inhaled and ultimately cause lung tissue damage andcancer. Smokers are especially prone to the adverse effectsof long-term radon exposure. Radon is the number one cause of lung canceramong people who do not smoke. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer for people who do.


The potential for radon in any particular home is dependenton a number of variable factors such as the underlyingsoil composition, the type of construction materials andmethods used, weather conditions, and even occupantlifestyle. Radon concerns tend to be greatest in hilly ormountainous regions, and less of an issue in sandycoastal areas. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency(www.epa.gov) and local health departments can provideinformation on radon and have maps identifying knownradon hot spots. But pockets of radon-producing elementscan be found almost anywhere: Inside any home; this means new and old homes, well sealed and drafty homes, andhomes with or without a basement.


Radon levels may vary from season to season, day to day,or even by the hour, as pressure differences occur outsideor within a structure. Dramatically different radon levelscan be found in seemingly identical neighboring homes.Consequently, the only way to determine if there is a radonconcern is to perform a test. While radon kits are availablefor consumer use, it is generally recommended that radonscreening or testing be performed by a qualified radonspecialist, especially for real estate transactions.  A test kit is normally placed at the lowest livable point of the house and takes continuous measurements for 48 hours.


Since radon gas is naturally occurring, it cannot beeliminated; but it can be controlled. Once the radon levelin a particular house is quantified using one of severalrecognized radon-testing methods, steps can be taken tolower the radon level and the potential health concern.The EPA has established a continuous exposure level of4 (or more) picocuries per liter (pCi/L) as the action levelfor remediation.


There are several methods that can be used to lower radonlevels. These include ventilation systems, pressurizationof the basement air, and block wall ventilation. However,the most commonly used and effective radon mitigationmethod is sub-slab suction. This method makes useof plastic piping, installed through the floor slab of ahouse, basement, or even crawlspace, and a low-volume,continuously operating fan to create a negative-pressurewithin the piping to draw in radon-laden air from below thehouse and vent it harmlessly to the exterior.

Sources: HouseMaster, EPA, Reader's Digest

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Suzanne Strength

I moved to the Lake Norman area in 1998. I remember thinking when we first drove in that this was the prettiest place I'd ever seen. After buying our first home, I decided I'd love to help others live....

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