You may have an unwelcome and dangerous visitor in your home and not even realize it – and its name is radon. This odorless, colorless, and naturally occurring gas can harm you when inhaled and increase the chances of developing lung cancer. Being aware of common radon dangers in the home can allow you to take steps to reduce the risk of being exposed to this radioactive gas.
1. Foundation Cracks and Similar Radon Dangers in the Home
Radon gas forms when uranium in soil, water, or rocks breaks down. During this process, gas is released. If your home happens to be above the ground where this happens, radon gas may come inside. One of the most common ways radon gets into a home is through cracks in the foundation. These cracks sometimes extend to walls and cause gaps in floors. Pipes, pumps, or wires entering through the foundation may also develop enough space around them to let radon into your home. Being proactive about sealing cracks, even if radon isn’t yet a problem, can provide added peace of mind. Places where concrete stops and starts (construction joints) should also be checked.
2. Fireplaces and Furnaces
Combustion appliances like fireplaces and furnaces are also possible sources of radon in a home. Heating and air conditioning systems, in particular, can facilitate air movement throughout a home. If that air contains radon, HVAC systems could take radon gas from one area of your home that may not be used on a regular basis, such as the basement, and spread it into frequently used living spaces. A similar process can happen with forced air furnaces that send warmed air through ductwork. Fireplaces can emit radon gas because of cracks around chimneys or as a result of the combustion process if conditions are right for this to happen.
3. Outside Air
The EPA estimates that one out of every 15 homes in the U.S. may have unacceptable radon levels. In some instances, levels become elevated when air carries particles from a nearby source of uranium or radon-containing soil and travels into a home. In fact, there have even been documented instances of tailings from uranium mines settling in homes after traveling hundreds of miles through the air. It’s also possible for radon from foundation soil to seep into a home through uncaulked basement windows. Also, air containing radon gas sometimes gets into an attic by way of uncaulked siding and sinks downward into living spaces.
4. Well Water
According to the EPA, radon gas sometimes dissolves and accumulates in underground water sources like wells. If your main source of water is from a nearby well, you may be ingesting this toxic gas without knowing it. Be proactive if you have an older well on your property and have the water tested. Should radon be detected, aeration and granular activated carbon are sometimes used to remove it. A good way to identify possible sources of radon in your home is to have it inspected if it’s an older home or one you’ve just moved into recently. Possible solutions to resolve or mitigate radon issues include having a radon system installed through the attic, regularly re-caulking windows and doorways, and sealing floor and wall cracks.
Even if your home does not have a well, fireplace, or cracks in the foundation, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe from radon dangers in the home. Every home should be tested for radon to make sure that the indoor levels are not 4pCi/L or higher. If they are, mitigation steps should be taken.