The safe level of radon at home, as recommended by Environmental Protection Act (EPA), is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air or 148 becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3) (‘picocurie’ and ‘becquerel’ are common units for measuring the amount of radioactivity). Levels above this are dangerous as it can cause lung cancer in the long run.
Surveys show that one out of every 15 homes across the United States tests positive for unsafe levels of radon.
What causes radon to enter in your home?
Radon is a naturally occurring invisible radioactive gas that is odorless, colorless, and tasteless. It is formed from radioactive metals, such as Uranium, Thorium, and Radium, found in groundwater, rocks, and soil.
Radon quickly dilutes in the air outdoors, which brings down its concentration to very low levels. Its concentration increases indoors when it enters your homes through
- Cracks in floors or walls
- Gaps in foundations around pipes or pumps
- Construction joints
Radon levels are found to be the highest in the basement of the house or building.
Higher concentrations of radon are found in your home when
- Higher levels of uranium are present in the soil on which the house is built
- There are several cracks or gaps in floors, walls, and foundations
- The rooms are poorly ventilated
- The water system that supplies water to your home contains radon
How does radon affect your health?
The EPA has found that radon causes over 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the United States.
Radon escapes from the soil and rises in the air. When you inhale high concentrations of radon, it enters your lungs, it gets deposited in the linings of lungs, and it causes changes in the DNA. This increases your risk of getting lung cancer.
When you are exposed to high levels of radon, you may experience symptoms, such as:
- Difficulty breathing
- A new cough that worsens over time
- Chest tightness
- Hoarseness of voice
- Trouble swallowing
If you are a smoker, radon exposure can increase your chances of developing lung cancer by as much as 25 times. Hence, it is necessary that you quit smoking and check your home radon levels as soon as you can.
If you suspect high radon exposure and smoke habitually, visit your doctor to get your health checkup done.
How to test your home for radon levels?
You can go through the manual, ‘A Citizen’s Guide to Radon,’ produced by the EPA to know in detail how to test your home for radon levels.
Here is some general information about what you can do:
- Hire a professional tester or do it yourself with a kit that you can buy at a hardware store or online. You can keep the kit at your home for a few days and send the kit to the lab to get the results of radon levels in your home.
- If you have a well in your home, get its water radon level tested. If you get a positive result, treat it before the radon enters your home through it.
The EPA recommends checking radon levels at least every 2 years.
How do you get rid of radon in your home?
Here is what you can do to reduce air radon levels in your homes:
- Increase your underfloor ventilation
- Install a radon sump system in the basement
- Seal the gaps in the floors and wall (by plasters and caulk)
- Improve the ventilation in your home (open windows, use fans, and vent systems)
- Take precautions to prevent radon from entering from the basement into living rooms
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