Is it safe to live in a house with radon gas?

Radon exposure in indoor air can cause respiratory problems and other health concerns to people living in your household. No amount of radon exposure is considered safe because radon has radioactive particles that can eventually lead to cancer if you are exposed over a long time. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) considers radon levels in a home to be unsafe if it goes beyond 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). However, you should always aim for a reading that is below 2 pCi/L and even lower to reduce the chances of radon exposure in your home. In this article, we will be discussing the long-term effects of radon exposure, why you should test your home for radon, and how to reduce radon levels in your home.

Long-term effects of radon exposure

Radon gas contains radioactive particles that can increase your risk of getting lung cancer if you get exposed to it over a long time. The gravity of the situation can be even worse if you smoke and also get exposed to radon at the same time.

Radon exposure is very dangerous and can be life-threatening

Since radon is odorless and colorless, you may fail to realize your level of exposure until you notice the symptoms. Some of the major signs and symptoms of elevated levels of radon exposure include chest pain, difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, tightness in the chest, and pneumonia or acute bronchitis. Long-term exposure allows the accumulated radioactive particles from radon to damage the DNA of your lung tissue, leading to cancer.

Why you should test your home for radon

Since radon gas is odorless and colorless, the only way you can protect your family from the effects of long-term exposure is to perform professional radon testing. It is recommended to test your home for radon after every two years or less whether you have a mitigation system put in place or not. This helps to ascertain that your mitigation system is working properly and that radon levels in your home are not elevated. It is also important to retest your home after any major renovation or when you are planning to sell it. When you perform any foundation repairs or structural changes, you open up other pathways for radon to seep into your home. A simple test for the second time can help determine if there is any change in radon levels.

How to reduce radon levels in your home

  • Active sub-slab suction (sub-slab depressurization)

The most popular and reliable method of radon mitigation is known as active sub-slab suction. Suction pipes are inserted into the soil or crushed rock underneath the floor slab. It can also be done from outside and the number and location of the inserted suction pipes will depend on the strength of the radon source and how easily air can move in the soil under the slab or the crushed rock. Most often, it only involves a single point of suction.

  • Sub-membrane suction

An effective method of reducing radon levels in homes that have a crawlspace is known as submembrane suction. In this process, a high-density plastic sheet is used to cover the earth floor while a vent pipe and fan are installed to extract radon from beneath the sheet before it is vented outdoors. Crawlspace ventilation can also lower radon levels by diluting and reducing the radon underneath.

  • Sealing cracks in the foundation

The basic part of how many homeowners approach radon mitigation is by sealing cracks and other visible openings in the foundation. This is one of the most cost-efficient and effective ways to reduce the level of radon in your home. Sealing foundation cracks also reduces the loss of conditioned air. However, EPA recommends combining this technique with other mitigation procedures because it doesn’t lower radon levels consistently or significantly. It is difficult to identify and seal off all cracks where radon can enter a home.

Other mitigation methods that can be combined with sealing cracks include house or room pressurization, using an air-to-air heat exchanger, and increasing natural ventilation by opening your doors, windows, and other vents on the lower floors of your home.

It is not safe to live in a house with elevated levels of radon gas since long-term exposure causes life-threatening illnesses like lung cancer. The only way to know the level of radon gas present in the air you breathe is by testing. Once it is detected, a professional radon mitigation system needs to be installed to minimize radon and keep your family safe from exposure.