Radon is a tasteless, colorless, odorless gas, formed naturally by the decomposition of radioactive metals such as Uranium, Thorium, or Radium in the ground. The gas then makes its way up through the earth, finding entrance into homes through cracks, gaps and exposed earth in unsealed crawl spaces and basements.
As the gas is undetectable without specific testing kits, many homeowners are unaware of the danger, and breathe in these harmful particles without knowing. Over time, these particles build up in the lungs, making the likelihood of cancer higher and higher as years go by. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General’s office estimate that Radon is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States alone. This makes radon the second leading cause of lung cancer, only just below smoking and tobacco products.
How do you know if there’s Radon in the Home?
The existence of Radon has been known to us for almost 120 years, but the dangers it presented, and how prevalent the gas can be is more of a new development in our knowledge of this radioactive gas. Though it is true that elevated levels of the gas can be extremely dangerous, there is a safe level at which the danger is mostly neutralized. This level, as stated by the EPA is anywhere from 2 to 4 Picocuries (Pci/L). If a radon test is performed, and a higher level is found, then a mitigation system will be installed for the safety of everyone in the home. There are now systems on the market today that can be installed in basements and crawl spaces to catch, funnel and release the gas out into the atmosphere to safely diffuse. This way, the risk of inhaling the gas is far lessened.
There’s no real way to detect the gas in your home without a specialized testing kit or a radon professional. It can be hard to detect natural gasses in the home, and this is especially true for radon as it is a gas, and furthermore, an odorless, tasteless, and totally invisible one. Even worse, it can take years for physical evidence of Radon exposure to form into health issues.
However, there are resources for homeowners who are concerned that there may be elevated levels in the home. One great resource is the EPA Radon Zone Map, which shows areas of the country that are more likely to experience heightened levels of radon. There is also the EPA’s Basic Radon Fact sheet, published in 2016, the information is still relevant today.
How does Radon enter the Home?
Older homes with exposed, unsealed crawl spaces are particularly at risk, as exposed earth is the most direct way that radon can make its way into your home--but there are other places that it can find entry, including:
- Cracks in otherwise solid floors or walls.
- Construction joints.
- Gaps in suspended floors
- Gaps around piping
- Spaces in the walls.
- Through natural water supplies, such as wells.
These areas provide small gaps that the gas can travel through, and thus infest the home over time.
What are the Symptoms of Radon Exposure?
The danger posed by radon is a very serious issue--and if the gas has gone undetected for an extended period of time, say over years--there could be health issues forming that seem to have no direct cause. This can be very disconcerting, if you’ve been experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should seek out a professional radon testing company and a medical professional.
- A persistent cough
- A bloody cough
- Sudden or worsening wheezing
- Shortness of breath
- A sudden or worsening hoarseness to the voice
- Chest pain, especially noticeable when coughing or laughing
- An increased number of respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
Smoking or the use of nicotine products can make these symptoms worse, and raise the risk of Lung Cancer.
With all that in mind, it’s highly recommended that every home, regardless of geographical location, construction style or age, should be tested for elevated radon levels. To keep you, and your family safe, reach out to your local radon expert today.