Did you know radon exposure is the second major cause of lung cancer? The first cause is cigarette smoking.
The risk of lung cancer increases if your home has high quantities of radon. If you are unsure about the presence of radon in your home, then a radon test is essential. Efficient testing must be your immediate precautionary step to protect your family and yourself from the health hazards of radon.
What is radon?
Radon is a gas that is colorless, odorless, and radioactive by nature. This gas occurs naturally in the soil. It forms when the radioactive metals – thorium, uranium, and radium – break down. This radioactive metal breakdown can occur in groundwater, soil, or rocks. Radon is present in the air that rises from these radon-formation zones.
What explains radon’s presence in your home?
Radon’s presence in your home can be attributed to the formation of the gas in the soil. As soil is porous, it provides a passage for radon to move upwards and reach spaces such as gaps and cracks in homes.
Radon is a natural gas. Its movement up into the air is part of a natural process. It’s difficult to escape exposure from radon. The gas exists in the air surrounding us. Testing for radon and taking precautionary steps can help decrease the risk of exposure.
How is radon a health concern?
Radon is a health concern, given its tendency to put you at risk of lung damage. Radon particles disintegrate into tiny radioactive particles in the air, which, when inhaled, settle in the lungs. These particles, over time, can lead to lung cancer.
Radon exposure can further increase the risk for habitual smokers. It is difficult to identify the symptoms of radon exposure because they do not appear early. It can take years for the symptoms to appear.
The higher the radon exposure, the greater the health risk. It is important to verify the following factors to know how great a risk you are at to lung cancer due to radon. These factors include:
- The amount of radon at home
- The amount of radon at locations in the home where you spend more time
- Smoking habits of people in the home
- Exposure to additional particles emanating from actions such as burning coal and wood
Radon exposure above safety levels, smoking, and the presence of additional particles heighten your risk of lung cancer through radon.
If you are unsure about the presence of radon in your home, then a radon test is essential.
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What should be your first step toward radon protection?
Radon testing is the only immediate step to take to understand the extent of radon exposure. You can use test kits provided by your local government office or health agency. These kits enable short-term testing so that you know instantly if you have a radon exposure risk.
You may need to hire the services of a licensed radon-testing professional for elaborate and regular testing.
What to Do if Your Home Has Radon
If radon levels are high, then install a radon mitigation system immediately. A licensed radon professional should be able to accomplish the job safely and efficiently for you.
A radon mitigation system works by sucking in air from the soil and releasing it outside of your home. The device uses a fan to suck in the air. An effective mitigation system is one that can reduce radon levels to below 4 pCi/ L.
A professional may perform some radon diagnostic tests to determine the right type of mitigation system for your home.
How to Protect Yourself from Radon Exposure at Home
As radon is a natural substance, it is impossible to get rid of the gas completely. But the levels of radon can be maintained at recommended levels to lower health risks.
Any exposure to radon at less than 4 picocuries of the gas in a liter of air, is safe. Picocurie is a measure of radioactivity. If tests reveal radon gas level to be equal to, or above, 4 pCi/ L, then the use of a radon mitigation system is essential.
5 Radon-Resistant Techniques
A licensed radon service professional may employ different radon reduction techniques depending on the type of foundation of the home. Some common techniques include:
In this technique, a layer that allows gas to permeate through it is used. A clean 4-inch gravel bed is the usual material spread used for this layering.
This layer is spread below the flooring system or the slab of the home. The gas from the soil penetrates into this layer and moves around without entering the home.
This technique is not suitable for buildings with crawlspace foundations. Homes with slab-on-grade foundations and casements are best suited for this technique.
A layer of plastic sheeting with seams shut may be placed above the gas-permeable layer to move radon gas away from the house. Such sheeting is positioned below the slab as well. If there is a crawlspace floor, then the plastic sheeting is placed above this floor.
Improved airflow can keep radon levels in check. Keep windows open and use vents and fans for improved natural ventilation. This is only a temporary strategy, though, to keep radon out of your home. If the gas levels exceed safety limits, then a radon mitigation system is a must to reduce radon levels.
Fix Cracks and Gaps
Control radon levels by closing cracks and gaps on walls and in floors. Use only products designed for such fixing. Materials such as caulk and plasterwork best for the job. Refrain from using cheap substitutes as they neither offer safety nor provide a lasting solution.
Once gaps and cracks are fixed, perform radon testing to know if the fixing job is intact.
Smoking aggravates the risk of lung cancer through radon. Discourage smoking, either in yourself or any of the family members.
Lung cancer deaths in the U.S., caused due to radon are over 20,000 annually, according to an estimate by the Office of the Surgeon General and the EPA.
Radon preventive and protective measures are essential to keep your family and yourself healthy.
Simple measures, such as radon-testing a building before buying a home, can prevent you from exposure.
Steps such as regular testing of your home and installing radon mitigation systems go a long way in protecting your home.
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