Radon is an odorless, colorless gas known to increase the risk of cancer.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. The air pressure inside your home is usually lower than the pressure in the soil around your home’s foundation. Because of this difference in pressure, your home acts like a vacuum, drawing radon through foundation cracks and other openings. Radon may also be present in well water and can be released into the air in your home when water is used for showering, flushing the toilet, and such. Radon entering the home through water is a small risk compared with radon entering your home from the soil. In a small number of homes, the building materials such as granite and certain concrete products can give off radon, although building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves. Radon gas in soils is the principal source of elevated radon levels in the homes.
Testing - Testing for radon is inexpensive and easy. The amount of radon in the air is measured in "Pico curies per liter of air," or "pCi/L." 4 pCi/L is the generally recommended level for mitigation by the EPA. Many radon testers and mitigators would recommend mitigation at 3pCi/L or even lower. Lower amounts are always better.
Short-term testing – The testing kits for short-term testing cab be found at home-improvement or hardware stores. The test can last 2-90 days. This test is not as likely to give you a good report as on year long radon levels.
Closed house conditions. During an electronically monitored radon test, exterior doors and windows should remain closed, exhaust fans, whole house fans and basement fans should not be used. Heating and cooling can be used normally except the ac cannot be in fresh air mode. Entry and exit doors can be used normally but should not be left open. The monitor should not be disturbed.
Long-term testing – Long-term tests remain in your home for more than 90 days. "Alpha track" and "electret" detectors are commonly used for this type of testing. A long-term test will give you a reading that is more likely to tell you your home's year-round average radon level than a short-term test.
Electronic monitor - This test usually takes 48 hours and is done with a special monitor strategically placed in the lowest level of the home. It provides accurate results quickly. This is the test I and most certified radon testers use.
Visit the Environmental Protection Agency's website for more information on short-term and long-term testing.
Radon Reduction – Radon can never be completely terminated from a home, but there are ways to minimize the radon levels in your house.
As a start, simply sealing or caulking up cracks and gaps in your basement foundation wall will help keep radon out. With today’s technology, elevated radon levels in most houses can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below. Your home foundation type may affect the kind of radon reduction system that will work best. There are several proven methods to reduce radon in your home, but the one primarily used is soil suction, which pulls radon from below the home and vents it through a pipe or pipes to the air above the home where it is quickly diluted.
For more details on radon reduction methods, visit the EPA’s Consumer Guide on Radon Reduction.