Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers in the United States. As a Certified Property Inspector and Radon tester, I am seeing that most new home buyers are unaware of the dangers of Radon. As a result of this lack of information, most home buyers as well as current homeowners are not having their homes tested for Radon. In many cases, my clients have also been misinformed by real estate representatives or the media regarding both the prevalence and lung cancer dangers of radon. Radon testing if done by the homeowner, is inexpensive, and takes only 48 hours.
Here are some important facts about Radon that homeowners and renters should know to protect the health of your family. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. Visit cheec.uiowa.edu/misc/radon.html for more on a study by Dr. William Field on radon-related lung cancer in women.
Radon is a cancer-causing natural radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. The type of construction, foundation or location does not prevent a Radon problem. Its presence in a home can pose a danger to a familys health. The only way to determine if a home has a Radon problem is to have an EPA standardized test done. This test can be completed by the homeowner or a certified professional.
The U.S. Surgeon General and EPA recommend that all homes be tested for radon. All homes can be fixed if there is a radon problem found. The average cost of a radon fix for a home is about $1,200. Some home improvement stores sell inexpensive test kits for about $35 (which includes an EPA certified lab report). However, Consumer Reports recently found that those test kits were not very accurate. Therefore, if you want to do your own testing contact your state radon office for a better quality inexpensive test kit.
If the homeowner or buyer/seller does not or cannot to do the Radon testing (some states require a professional complete the test during a real estate transaction), visit the National Environmental Health Association Radon Certification website at: radongas.org/radon_measurement_service.shtml This site has properly certified radon testers as myself listed by the cities in your state.
The untimely deaths of Peter Jennings and Dana Reeve have raised public awareness about lung cancer, especially among people who have never smoked. Smoking, radon, and secondhand smoke are the leading causes of lung cancer. Although lung cancer can be treated, the survival rate is one of the lowest for those with cancer. In many cases lung cancer can be prevented; this is especially true for radon.
EPA has designated January as National Radon Action Month, a time when state radon programs and other partners conduct special radon outreach activities and events across the country. The aim of National Radon Action Month is to increase the public’s awareness of radon, promote radon testing and mitigation, and advance the use of radon-resistant new construction practices.
Steve Zivolich, is an ASHI Certified Inspector and owner of Guaranteed Property Inspection and Mold Investigation in Southern California. He is also certified in: Radon, Mold, Energy Efficiency and Asbestos testing and investigations.
The prevalence of Radon Gas in the soils in areas around the United States is an issue of growing concern. Radon has been deemed the number 1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in a study done at the University of Iowa.
If your planned home is in an area of higher risk, you should plan early on to install a Radon Mitigation System. In many areas now, a test is required with each real-estate transaction regarding residential properties and this will probably expand to include most of the higher risk areas. In any event, your health is well worth the small investment to install such a system.
Installing the basics of the system in a Basement or Slab-On-Grade Foundation consists of inserting a perforated pipe below the slab in crushed rock and stubbing up a connector into the basement. Venting this pipe to the exterior (away from any windows in your house or your neighbors, preferably up through the roof), constitutes what is known as a Passive Radon Mitigation System. If , after your house is complete, a test determines that levels are still too high, you may have to convert to an Active Radon Mitigation System by installing a fan than runs continuously which creates low pressure under the slab and increases the rate of gas evacuation. So you will want to have the slab penetration in an area that is readily accessible and has electric available to power the fan.
Radon gas is found in varying levels in almost all regions of the country. Visit the EPA’s Radon Map Zone at the following link.
Radon Map Zone Areas in Pink pose the highest risk followed by Orange and Yellow. Click here to check the specific risk level in your county.
Many times the fan is located in the attic, particularly if your foundation is slab-on-grade or crawl space. Also remember that you will want to make sure that the vent through the roof does not allow water to fall down the pipe to the slab below, this would not be a good thing for several reasons.
Designing and installing the infrastructure for a passive system can be accomplished for about $150 to $300. this will save you 150-300% of the cost of retrofitting. An Active systems will add $ 250-$550 depending on the size of your home. Download Build Radon Out. Your radon system is a simple task but it does require planning to complete the installation in your new home without incurring significantly higher costs.
Anytime you talk home safety you want to talk radon, and that is what we will discuss here. Radon is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer in the US and it has no need to be in your home. If you have not ever tested you home you should do so immediately. If people are getting sick from it, you should know if it is present in your home. Simple as that.
Easy to Do Tips to Remove radon and Breathe Easy
1. Make all attempts to have air constantly moving in your home. That is one of the easiest thing you can do to lower your radon levels. Constantly moving fresh air will displace radon particles. Now no matter how efficient your home is, it is still not completely air tight. Adding fresh air into the basement or living areas of the home on a constant basis will greatly reduce radon levels. This includes running fans or just opening and shutting the doors a few times.
2. Some homes have chimneys and by opening and leaving the chimney flue open it gives the radon gases a way to escape your Home. Radon like many other gasses is lighter than air so it will rise…and if you have a chimney you can let it rise right through your home and use the chimney as a vent. You can even add a fan to send gases up the chimney to additionally help move the stagnant air.
3. The easiest way to reduce radon is to test for it and have it properly remedied by a certified professional in your area. That is the only way to truly get rid of it, the above tips can help reduce your homes levels but never truly remove them all.
I know the above 3 tips are not the greatest tips…but the fact of the matter is, the above ways can help you prevent an over exposure to radon. The only true way to know if your home has a radon problem is to have your home checked by a certified professional or do some testing yourself. Know your levels, do yourself a favor and have your home checked. You’ll sleep better at night knowing you did so.
More and more people are getting sick in homes and they are placing the blame on Radon. If you haven’t tested your home yet…. click here and see my latest Do-it-yourself Home Radon testing kit and sleep good at night knowing you’re home has been tested and you’re family is breathing clean air..!
Concerned about buying or selling a home with Radon? You’ll find no need to worry if you educate yourself with the facts. Radon is found all over the United States, and one home can show a reading while the house next door shows nothing. From a real estate perspective, buyers can consider it a plus if a mitigation system is already in place, because that means the house has been tested, and fixed, and there’s no mystery. On the flip side, sellers can confidently let potential buyers see the radon results of a house, along with any mitigation, in a positive light, because information is more honorable than ignorance. I figure the good karma alone would pay off…
Radon is a radioactive gas found in soil and rock, formed by the decay of uranium, which is a natural process. Radon gas is invisible, with no odor or taste. Statistics say that radon hasn’t been shown to negatively affect home sales, but after my own experience of having the option to buy a house with radon, I wondered if that statistic was really true. I didn’t want to buy a “cancer-causing radon house” but that was a very uneducated and closed end thought. Ironically, I was ready and willing to buy a house that didn’t even mention radon at all. Of course, it had to finally occur to me, “What if this other house has radon too, and it’s just never been tested?”
In retrospect, our situation made me think that the psychology of not mentioning it at all could be pretty slick, and affective, but only initially. The truth is, there are still many people who – innocently – don’t consider it an important part of buying or selling a home; it simply doesn’t occur to them. There are many who even consider radon a scam entirely. However, out of respect and consideration for the market, it would probably be wise to have test results on hand.
Would you rather know, or choose ignorance? I’d rather know, particularly if a house had a high level that needed to be addressed with mitigation. An extremely high level, like 20 pCi/L (pico Curies per Liter) might spook me a little, but my chances of getting lung cancer even then (without mitigation) would only be 36 out of 1000, and that’s IF I were exposed over a lifetime. Statistics say that a level of 20 pCi/L would cause lung cancer to 260 out of 1000 people if they were exposed to that level for a lifetime AND they also smoked cigarettes. So obviously the level is hugely reduced for non-smokers, but we all know that smoking is its own risk anyway.
Human nature doesn’t typically want to think about risks and our emotional interpretation of them with numbers, charts and comparisons. Any one of us could still get hit by a bus tomorrow, right? Still, information offers wisdom, and to make a decision as a home buyer, you should take a look at the numbers with a mitigation system in place so you can at least see that there’s no need for extensive fear.
Mitigation systems can reduce whatever level of radon that is present down to 2 to 4 pCi/L. Because of the very definition of radon, the EPA can’t say that they consider any level safe, but they do say that 2 to 4 pCi/L is acceptable, with minimal risks. If mitigation lowers radon to an acceptable level, the EPA says your chances of getting lung cancer are only about 5 in 1000. With lower numbers like that, one realizes that walking or living in pollution over a lifetime could just as easily have ramifications too, like a dozen or more other factors. Okay, so, “Warning: being alive will kill you one day.” No big surprise there.
It’s nothing to make fun of, but very low levels of radon need not be perceived as alarms that make home buyers run for the hills. Humans have been living with varying amounts of radon in the earth and air for a long time, completely oblivious to it for the most part. It fluctuates with warm and cold, damp and dry conditions, and furthermore, there are worse things in the world that can be just as hazardous to our health, if not more so. Don’t become phobic, but stop and think about the chemistry, biology and toxins all over our environments; some of our cleaning products, molds, pesticides, pets, and even food choices… Heaven help us if we over-analyze “indoor pollution” and “what’s in that dust?”
Here are some things to consider, just to make sure you’re informed and have no unnecessary fears or misconceptions.
How long might you live in the house? Some people buy a house to live in for a lifetime while others know that they will want to take it up a notch in 5 or so years. Radon’s health risks are charted to show how a person’s health would be affected over a lifetime of exposure; this is probably equivalent to 20 years or more. The risk for only 5 to 10 years of exposure would likely show lower risks than the EPA’s “over a lifetime” chart.
According to the EPA, the average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L. If you buy a home that hasn’t been tested at all, consider that this average exists.
Yes, radon is a hazard, but it can be fixed. Have confidence in mitigation systems, and if you have any doubt, contact the National Radon Hotline at 1-800-SOS RADON to ask if there are mitigation professionals in your area that can check the system. If they can’t tell you, they can at least give you the number to your state’s radon office so you can find out about trained mitigation contractors in your area.
Study the Environmental Protection Agency’s website (www.epa.gov) to find many consumer resources, including information about radon and health, and how various mitigation systems work.
If you’re in love with a house that you want to buy, don’t hesitate to ask the seller to test for radon, even though it may take some extra time. If the score shows radon above the “acceptable” level, know that mitigation can either be requested as a contingency in your offer, or you can try to get a fair reduction on the price of the house to accommodate your cost of adding mitigation.
Suggestion to sellers: test your house and make sure you’re ready to show test results if a prospective buyer asks about radon. If needed at all, you can either have mitigation installed in order to offer a safer home for sale, or be prepared to lower your asking price accordingly. (Not by much, roughly $500 to $2000). There’s a very good chance that a buyer will appreciate the knowledge or action taken pre-sale. Only the uneducated will shy away, so it would be helpful to have a few informative brochures readily available.
Simply put, houses with radon can be fixed, and doing so doesn’t cost an arm and a leg – no more than a medium to low-cost home repair. Fear not. If you want to buy a house because it feels like home, and the deal is ripe and full of potential, don’t miss out on it due to uninformed (or misinformed) fears about radon. Refer to http://www.radon.com or the EPA’s website to find out more about test kits and contacting your state’s radon office; be educated, so you can make a smart decision on buying, or take responsible, if not considerate, action as a seller.
Sub-slab depressurization or sub-slab suction is probably the most reliable and effective radon mitigation technique. It involves an insertion of a pipe (usually 4 inches in diameter) through the floor slab into the soil or gravel under the foundation. This can be done either from inside the house, or inserted under the slab from the outside. As a side note, this technique is used for houses with a basement or slab-on-grade foundation. If your house has a crawl space, a different technique is used.
Just to give you a quick idea of what’s involved, you’ll need to create a hole (aka suction point) in your slab (approx 4 inches in diameter), remove as much soil and/or gravel from under the foundation as possible, put in place a pipe running out from this suction point to a suitable location, where a special exhaust fan will generate vacuum pressure that will draw radon out from underneath the slab to the outside, thus preventing the radon gas from entering your home. Right, you may say, and I know, because that’s what I said when I first read about this a few years back. Believe me, if you do this right, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t, you’ll see a remarkable decrease in your radon levels, which will often be accompanied by a fresher indoor air quality as well (this is one positive side effect of installing this system).
Now, there are different ways of going about this, but I am going to go through one example … in my opinion probably the most likely solution for the majority of home owners (remember, this is not for a house with a crawl space)
My best advice for you is to pick the spot most convenient to run the pipe out of the basement and start there with a hole. I do think that a suction point near the footer tends to produce better results because there is often more settling there, but really that is not of the greatest importance. You should definitely determine where the pipe will have to exit the basement before you start drilling holes in your floor. Also make sure you are aware of potential drain and water pipes, and possible electrical conduits or in-floor heating.
I am going to assume that if you plan on doing this yourself, you don’t need me to tell you how to make a hole in your slab. Well anyway, one way is to drill a series of holes and then chisel and hammer out the cement chunk. The hole should be slightly larger than the 4” pipe you’ll be using.
Once you have the hole made, it’s time to dig. This is probably the worst part of the job, and it could be relatively easy or very hard, depending on what lies underneath. For best results try removing as much as possible. You are trying to create a sort of a vacuum chamber under the slab that will draw in radon and moisture from underneath the entire foundation, so this can make or break your mitigation system. No matter what you have underneath the slab, be it sand, gravel, soil, or any combination of these, try to get 20-30 gallons out, and more if possible, specially for tight soils. REMEMBER this will be the difference between a mitigation system that works and one that doesn’t.
When we did our house, I spent hours scraping away buckets of dirt and gravel till my forearms were bruised. I managed to get about 30 gallons out, and let me tell you, it was worth it.
RUNNING THE PIPES
If you have an attached garage, I would recommend going from the basement, into the garage, and then to the attic, as this is the most feasible solution. Your second choice is to go through the floor above, perhaps through a closet or some other point where the pipe is either not visible or will be easily concealed, and then into the attic where your suction fan would be. The third choice is taking the pipe outside of your house. Personally, I think an outside system should be avoided all together unless there aren’t any other options. Even if it takes a little more effort on your part, try and stick to the indoors for your piping and fan system. Colder climates especially will result in a lot of condensation that can reduce the life expectancy of your radon exhaust fan. You can purchase a condensation bypass kit if you mount your fan outside to prevent water and condensation from ruining your motor.
Back to work… Now that you have your suction point ready, you can use a coupler and secure it using a foam backer (but really you can also use whatever you see fit). Once all your pipes are in place and secure you should caulk this joint for an airtight seal. For the piping, you can use any type of good PVC piping that will fit into whatever you’re using, and make sure that you measure well before you glue your PVC to your elbows and joints. In our home we used a 4 inch sewer pipe and glueless joints/elbows (they have a double rubber seal on the inside to form a water and air proof seal, and the advantage is that you can separate the pipes if you mess up. The only downside is that they are a few bucks more, and really hard to put on, or take off for that matter).
Contrary to what you might be thinking, you cannot just use any ordinary fan for this job. If you are going to invest your time and energy into this, you have to do things right, and you’ll need a special fan that is capable of creating vacuum pressure under the slab without the fan burning out, that can withstand the elements, cold, and moisture, and that will do the job quietly and efficiently.
For your safety, you exhaust Fan has to be located outside of your home’s living space. This leaves you with an option to put your fan in the garage, the attic, or outside. Furthermore, the pipe leading from your fan to the outside must terminate above the plane of the roof, and must be no closer than 10 feet horizontally from windows that open. This is to minimize the possibility of radon re-entering your home.
The size and price of your fan will vary and depends on the square footage of your foundation. The type of soil also plays a role in the fan decision, as you might need a more powerful fan for tighter soils.
As an example if your foundation is anywhere up to 1200 Square feet and your sub-soil is a gravel mixture, an RP145 by RadonAway should be quite sufficient. Most retailers will have a chart or table of different fans, ranging from 3” to 8” duct systems, the latter being used for large projects, such as a school.
Finally no matter where you end up placing your fan, you will need to bring it power. For this, you might need to call an electrician, or not, depending on whether you have a plug-in nearby. Luckily, my father is an electrician, and so we have our fan wired in directly to a switch for ease of maintenance. As you might have guessed we have the RP145 fan installed in the attic above our garage, and it is virtually silent.
As a side note, each fan comes with a suggested maximum operating pressure. This basically informs you how well your entire mitigation system is performing, how much pressure is being created by the fan, and whether you have sufficient airflow under the slab. To keep an eye on your system and to see that it is functioning nominally, I strongly suggest getting something like this Installation Kit for RadonAway System . It includes a manometer which basically tells you what pressure your system is holding. It’s inexpensive, easy to install, and well worth it. These kits also include couplings, which are intended to tie in your fan to the PVC piping(shown in the picture with the RP145 Fan) and I’d recommend using these, as they allow not only for a perfect tight fit with your piping, but also easy future fan replacement or maintenance.
Our radon levels in the basement were always hovering at around 25 and up to 31 pci/L, and around 20 pci/L on the main floor, during the cold winter months. Summers were ranging from 8 to 12 pci/L. After we installed the subslab mitigation system our levels are averaging 1.4 during the coldest months, and 0.4 to 0.8 pci/L in the summer. The picture to the right is from our own Safety Siren Pro 3 Radon Detector. Click on it to see a larger version. It was taken on January 31, 2010. We have been using it for over 2 years now, and had several of our neighbours borrow it for some time as well. If you find that you have a radon problem, you are probably better off getting one of these instead of the charcoal or alpha track test kits that need to be sent in to a lab. These are not cheap, they go for US $130.00, but they are very accurate and convenient to use.
If you are interested in prices or would like to purchase one, here are a couple of suppliers in the States. They also provide a lot of additional information about their products.
Radon Zone – These guys are offering free shipping, unfortunately they only ship to the States (sorry Canadian customers). They supply other, short and long term, radon test kits, as well as the Safety Siren Pro 3.
National Safety Products – These guys dont offer free shipping but they do ship to Canada, and they do offer discounts if you plan on purchasing more than one item. They also supply other radon products.
I wish you all the best and hope you get those radon levels down just like we did.
Rn is the chemical symbol for radon. It is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally and can be found in soils, rock, and water throughout the world. It has numerous different isotopes, but radon-220, and -222 are the most common. Radon is a gas that is created in the soils where uranium and radium are found. Since these elements can be found everywhere in the world any building has the potential for elevated levels of radon. The more uranium found in the soil, the higher the potential for elevated radon levels within that building.
Because radon is an inert (or noble) gas, meaning that it does not react or combine chemically with other substances except under certain special conditions, it can move up through the soil into the atmosphere, where it is easily diluted and presents little concern. However, when radon enters a building, it can build up and become a health concern
You cannot see or smell radon, and there is no way that your body can sense the presence of radon; however, it can have a detrimental effect on the inhabitants by increasing their likelihood of developing lung cancer.
Since radium 226 can be found in low concentrations in almost all rock and soil, it is not a question of “if”, but “how much” radon you really have. Radon is generated in rock and soil and it escapes into the atmosphere through cracks and spaces between the rocks and soil. This results in an average outdoor radon concentration of about 0.4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air). At these concentrations there is no real danger. However, if radon is allowed to seep into homes and buildings through cracks and holes in the foundations and walls, the concentration can build up to much higher levels, at which point research suggests there is a reason for concern.
The average indoor radon concentration is about 1.3 pCi/l. Radon concentrations in a home can very depending on several factors including; house design, soil conditions, local geology, and the weather, such as high or low atmospheric pressures, and warm or cold climate. For example, indoor radon levels increase substantially during the winter months. As indoor temperatures increase relative to the outside temperatures, a thermal effect occurs. The rising warm air within a building is displaced by cold denser outside air, some of which seeps in through the foundation cracks, vents, and holes from the underlying soils.
Furthermore, exhaust fans inside the house can create a lower (negative) pressure inside the home relative to the surrounding soil and air, and radon can actually be drawn into the building.