Radon Action Month: The Importance of Radon Testing and Mitigation

January is National Radon Action Month. Discover why radon testing is so important and how you can prevent dangerous exposure in your home.

January is National Radon Action Month, with the goal of raising public awareness about the dangers of this toxic gas. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon leads to approximately 21,000 deaths in the United States per year. Fortunately, many of these deaths are highly preventable through testing and mitigation. Discover the importance of reducing radon levels in your home and how the professionals at AmeriSpec can help.

What is Radon?

Radon is a naturally forming, radioactive gas. In fact, it’s listed on the periodic table of elements with the symbol Rn and atomic number 86. Radon is created when radioactive metals such as uranium, thorium or radium break down in rocks, soil and groundwater. It’s colorless, odorless and tasteless. There are certain regions of the United States where radon is more common, including:

  • Northern states such as Alaska, Washington and Montana
  • Across the Midwest in states including South Dakota, Iowa and Ohio

Even if you don’t live in one of these regions, that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from radon in your home. It can be an issue just about anywhere. The EPA provides a detailed map of radon zones you can consult for your local area.

Why is Radon Dangerous?

Though radon is organically present in the atmosphere and air we breathe in trace amounts, it becomes dangerous when it gets concentrated in indoor spaces. Sadly, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. 

To put that in perspective, lung cancer resulting from radon exposure results in more deaths than house fires and carbon monoxide combined. Radon is especially dangerous because it’s imperceptible to human senses. The only way to determine higher-than-normal radon levels is through professional testing.

How Does Radon Enter the Home?

The primary way radon enters the home is through the foundation. As radioactive material in the soil breaks down, the gas seeps through cracks, gaps around pipes and other small openings. Higher concentrations of radon are typically found in basements and crawl spaces, but it can be distributed in a home or office building through the HVAC system.

How Does Radon Testing Work?

Professional radon testing is easy and non-invasive to your daily life. Most commonly you will just be asked to keep windows and doors closed for a few days, with the exception of primary entrances and exits. AmeriSpec inspectors will choose their testing methodology based on the unique needs of your home. The two primary methods for radon testing are passive radon devices and active radon devices. Here are the basics:

Passive Radon Devices

Passive radon devices require no power. They trap radon in the device and create a chemical reaction that can then be analyzed by a lab. Common passive devices include charcoal canisters, alpha track detectors and electret ion detectors. While some passive testing devices are available for DIY testing, the results are often less precise and take longer to process.

Active Radon Devices

Active radon devices are more sophisticated than passive devices and require a trained professional to operate. They use energy to function, and continuously collect measurements of the levels of radon in the air of a home. They can more accurately show fluctuations of radon over time, and your certified tester can usually provide a report with their findings.

How Do You Mitigate Radon?

According to the EPA, the average indoor radon concentration for homes in the United States is approximately 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Though there is no “safe” level of radon for human exposure, the EPA recommends taking steps for mitigation if levels of the toxic gas test between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L. Anything over 4 pCi/L should be addressed immediately.

When it comes to radon mitigation, solutions are based on the characteristics of your home. These are the three most common forms of mitigation for radon:

  • Sub-slab suction: Sub-slab suction systems pull radon gas from the soil below your foundation into a collection chamber. The gas is then expelled from the home by a vent fan.
  • Drain tile suction: This method uses a vacuum mechanism within the existing drain tile networks. A pipe goes through the drain and vents the radon outside the home.

Sub-membrane: Sub-membranes are typically found in crawl spaces. Special plastic covers are applied to the dirt floor and walls to create a seal. Then, a suction pipe creates a vacuum below the cover to vent radon outside.

Find Radon Testing Near You

At AmeriSpec the safety of your home and your family are our top priorities. Our certified inspectors will help you understand the levels of radon in your home, explain the test results and offer solutions for effective mitigation. With over 150 locations across North America, it’s easy to find an inspector near you. Contact us today to schedule a radon test.