A naturally occurring radioactive gas that you cannot see, taste, or smell, Radon is produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Nearly one out of every fifteen homes in the United States is estimated to have elevated levels of radon. Radon can enter homes by cracks in foundations, openings around sump pumps and drains, construction joints, and cracks in walls. It can also be released into your home through household uses of well water. Radon has the highest concentration in the lower levels of your home.
The only known health effect associated with radon exposure is an increased risk of Lung Cancer. Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can become trapped in your lungs as you breathe. As further breakdown occurs, small bursts of energy are released, which can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that radon causes an estimated 15,000 lung cancer deaths per year; however, not everyone exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer.
There are instances of elevated indoor radiation levels across the nation; consequently, if you have elevated levels of radiation in your home, it does not mean that your neighbor does also. Houses next door to each other may have very different levels. The best way to know if your house contains high levels of radon is to test it with an EPA-certified radon test kit. It is important to note; however, that winter levels are usually higher than summer levels due to the difference in indoor and outdoor pressure. It is also important to test schools and places of business, in addition to testing your home. Radon is not selective.
If your home is found to have elevated levels of radon, there are several different methods that can be used to reduce those levels. One is sealing all cracks and openings to prevent further entry of radon. Once all openings are sealed, it is necessary to reverse the flow of radon by pressurizing the home, also known as subslab depressurization. The important thing to remember is that high levels of radon are completely reducible.
If you are building a new home, your builder can incorporate radon-resistant construction techniques into your home for an average cost of $350-$500. He can install a layer of clean gravel or aggregate beneath the slab or flooring system, lay polyethylene sheeting on top of that gravel layer, include a gas tight venting pipe from the gravel layer through the building to the roof, and seal and caulk the foundation thoroughly.
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