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What is Radon and What Can Be Done to Remediate It?

What is Radon?

It is a naturally occurring, colorless, odorless, tasteless, and chemically inert radioactive gas. Radon is formed by the natural radioactive decay of uranium in rock, soil, and water.

How Does the Gas Enter My Home?

Every home has its own unique pressurization signature that is created when the heating, ventilation, plumbing, and drainage systems work together. This pressure is typically less than that of the soil around your home’s foundation. This difference in pressure acts like a vacuum and pulls the majority of the gas into the home through cracks in the foundation and other openings. Other lower risk points of entry can include well water and certain building materials, including granite and concrete products. It can be found in both new construction as well as older homes.

Should I be Concerned?

Radon has been identified as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. It is responsible for tens of thousands of deaths every year, nearly as many as those that result from drunk driving. It is important to note that this threat is completely preventable through adequate testing and remediation.

How Do I Assess My Risk?


Image Source: Flickr/Birdies100

Several types of tests are available to assess the levels in your home; a short-term test can take as little as 48 hours or up to 90 days, and a long term test lasts 90 or more days. Levels can fluctuate in your home over time. Many factors can play a role in your home’s levels including the seasonality (winters are worse), time of day, even the present weather conditions. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has partnered with the American Lung Association to promote public awareness, testing, and mitigation.

Remediation Options

On average a remediation system will cost between $800–$1,200, depending on the type of home and the services that are required.
Many recently constructed homes are equipped with a passive radon system, a 3–4 inch PVC vent pipe that is sealed either below the basement slab or into the sump pump, and runs up through the home where it vents out the attic. Often, this type of system is not sufficient in reducing the levels below 4.0 pCi/L, a level established by the U.S. Congress as being equal to that found in the outdoor environment. The addition of a “fan” or vent pipe can often remedy this situation by lowering the gas to an acceptable level.

NOTE: Mitigation costs vary due to technique, materials, and the extent of the problem. Typically the cost of radon mitigations are comparable to other common home repairs.

My recommendation is if you buy an existing home or new home, always test for radon!

Main Image Source: Flickr/megankhines

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