What Is Radon Gas? Explanation of Harmful Radon Levels
Date Published: May 2, 2018
What is radon gas?
What is radon gas? Radon gas is toxic and is derived from naturally decaying uranium in the soil. In a home, it can only be detected with radon testing equipment. Considered to be carcinogenic by the World Health Organization (WHO) and a leading cause of lung cancer, it is advisable to test for harmful indoor radon levels.
Uranium is naturally found in our soils all across the nation, and is especially prevalent here in Colorado. The mineral occurs naturally in the earth’s crust and is infinitely more common than gold and silver. Because of this, uranium is commonly found deep below homes, new and old. As the mineral decays, it releases radon gas. Radon gas will then rise to the surface and exit the soils in the path of least resistance. Oftentimes that is through gaps and cracks in your foundation walls and floors. That being said, if there is a higher concentration of uranium below a particular house, it can lead to harmful radon levels within a home. This is becoming even more of an issue as homes are required to be built more tightly with regards to air leakage.
So what are the symptoms? As stated above, inhaling radon gas for prolonged periods of time has been correlated with lung cancer. Second only to smoking cigarettes, it has been estimated that radon gas has been at least a partial cause in many lung cancer cases. Read more about lung cancer causes here.
How do you mitigate for Radon gas in new home construction?
In Colorado, the presence of radon occurs statewide, in over half of Colorado’s counties. The CSU Extension has written a helpful publication on Preventing Radon Problems – (topic 9.953), in which it explains options in the design and planning stages for new construction, which can prevent radon or mitigate emissions. Passive sub-slab depressurization systems and foundation barrier techniques are some solutions, as are dedicated intake and/or combustion air for exhaust and combustion appliances. In Larimer County, Radon mitigation is listed as a requirement before requesting a building inspection. The requirements include below-grade vent piping before the slab is poured, and a follow-up inspection at the time of rough-in inspections.
How do you test for Radon Levels in Existing Homes?
Scott Home Inspection offers a low-cost test to determine radon levels. The test consists of placing a continuous radon monitor in a home for 48 hours with simulated closed house conditions (i.e. sealing the home as if it was winter.) The practice of testing has been outlined by the EPA. Since radon levels and length of exposure to radon contribute to the risk factor, for contractors and homeowners alike, testing offers peace of mind, and assurance that the levels in a home, or residential building project, are within an acceptable range. If not, recommendations can be made on how to add a radon mitigation system.
To read even more about radon and get pricing on our testing services, visit our radon page.
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Chris Scott is an ASHI certified home inspector with multiple years of experience in home inspections, blower door testing, duct leakage testing, and Boulder Rental License Inspections. Chris is also the Website Coordinator for Scott Home Inspection.