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Radon in the Home

Surveys show that homes in most Colorado counties have the potential for radon levels above EPA’s recommended action level. Because radon levels are influenced by a variety of factors—soil type and moisture, how “tight” the home is, type of heating and ventilation system, movement of air and groundwater, air pressure, and lifestyle behavior of the occupants—the only way to know if a home has elevated levels of radon is to test it.


All homes in Colorado should be tested for radon. Only individual testing can determine which houses may have a radon problem. You cannot base your radon level on a neighbor’s test result. Every house is different. Measuring radon levels in the home is simple and inexpensive. Test kits include complete instructions and return postage for mailing samples back to the lab for analysis.


Short-term detectors (such as charcoal canisters) are used for two to seven days. They provide quick screening measurements indicating potential radon problems. Short-term detectors should be placed in the lowest livable level of the house, preferably during winter. Long-term detectors (such as alpha track detectors) are left in place for three months to one year. They provide the advantage of averaging seasonal variations associated with radon levels. Long-term detectors are generally placed in main living areas.


Radon test kits cost from $10 to $25 for a short-term kit and $25 to $40 for a long-term kit. Test kits are available from hardware and home improvement stores, or through mail order companies. Many communities provide free test kits at county offices, senior citizen centers or other locations.


When buying a test kit, select one approved or listed by the EPA and follow the instructions carefully. If you do a short-term test, close windows and outside doors and keep them closed as much as possible during the testing period. Instructions are specific as to placement and the importance of not disturbing the test kit while it is monitoring the radon level of a home.


Homes that have a basement or combination slab-on-grade and crawlspace should be tested in each area due to potential differences in radon levels. Generally, radon levels are highest in the lower levels of the home. For this reason, some homeowners prefer to test in the basement and first floor, especially if they are used for living and sleeping spaces.


Once the test is finished, reseal or close the container and send it to the lab specified on the package right away. The lab fee for interpreting the results is usually included in the original cost of the kit. You may choose to have radon measurements performed by a professional.


(Source: "Radon in the Home," Tremblay

Radon Gas Hazards and How to Mitigate Them
Wednesday, 01 July 2009 17:35

Written by Grayson Thrush 

Radon is an extremely dangerous threat to humans because of the fact that it is not only deadly; it is also impossible to detect without proper dedicated equipment and professional help. Radon is a radioactive gas that is both odorless and colorless that forms when radium decays in the ground. Radon gas occurs as naturally as oxygen, and it diffuses harmlessly outdoors. Indoors however, such as in a home, radon can become concentrated in the ambient environment.

Radon gas is one of the leading causes of lung cancer, second only to cigarette smoke. It can also induce gastrointestinal problems and/or stomach cancer. Although as yet unproven, radon gas is thought to also cause fatigue, headaches, asthma, allergies and rashes. Radon is dangerous to all people. It is especially dangerous to young children and the elderly. It is also very dangerous to those individuals whom are immunosuppressed, such as HIV/AIDS patients and others.

Radon enters homes through sump pumps, basements, crawl spaces and anywhere else there is stagnant air in a home. Since humans cannot detect the presence of radon gas, each and every home should be tested. Testing kits are available at most major home improvement stores. To err on the side of caution, a professional radon mitigation specialist should be hired to thoroughly test a home. If radon is found to be present, a mitigation system should be professionally installed. Radon alarms are also available, which will sound an alarm if radon gas is detected. To be safe, hire a professional radon mitigation specialist in order to be certain that you and your family are protected from this potentially deadly carcinogen.

A Scientific Description of Radon
Sunday, 10 May 2009 19:46

PROPERTIES: Radon is a gaseous highly radioactive element discovered by English physicist Ernest Rutherford in 1899. The discovery is also credited to German physicist Friedrich Ernst Dorn in 1900. More specifically, Rutherford discovered radon's alpha radiation and Dorn discovered that radium was releasing a gas.

Representation of rn-222 atomRadon is a colorless chemically-unreactive inert gas. The atomic radius is 1.34 angstroms and it is the heaviest known gas--radon is nine times denser than air. Because it is a single atom gas (unlike oxygen, O2, which is comprised of two atoms) it easily penetrates many common materials like paper, leather, low density plastic (like plastic bags, etc.) most paints, and building materials like gypsum board (sheetrock), concrete block, mortar, sheathing paper (tarpaper), wood paneling, and most insulations.

Radon is also fairly soluble in water and organic solvents. Although reaction with other compounds is comparatively rare, it is not completely inert and forms stable molecules with highly electronegative materials. Radon is considered a noble gas that occurs in several isotopic forms. Only two are found in significant concentrations in the human environment: radon-222, and radon-220. Radon-222 is a member of the radioactive decay chain of uranium-238. Radon-220 is formed in the decay chain of thorium-232. Radon-222 decays in a sequence of radionuclides called radon decay products, radon daughters, or radon progeny. It is radon-222 that most readily occurs in the environment. Atmospheric releases of radon-222 results in the formation of decay products that are radioisotopes of heavy metals (polonium, lead, bismuth) and rapidly attach to other airborne materials such as dust and other materials facilitating inhalation.

USE: Radon has been used in some spas for presumed medical effects. In addition, radon is used to initiate and influence chemical reactions and as a surface label in the study of surface reactions. It has been obtained by pumping the gases off of a solution of a radium salt, sparking the gas mixture to combine the hydrogen and oxygen, removing the water and carbon dioxide by adsorption, and freezing out the radon.

PRODUCTION: Radon is not produced as a commercial product. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas and comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium. It is usually found in igneous rock and soil, but in some cases, well water may also be a source of radon.

EXPOSURE: The primary routes of potential human exposure to radon are inhalation and ingestion. Radon in the ground, groundwater, or building materials enters working and living spaces and disintegrates into its decay products. Although high concentrations of radon in groundwater may contribute to radon exposure through ingestion, the inhalation of radon released from water is usually more important.

Animation of the various ways radon gas can infiltrate a structure - 79k RADON IN THE WORKPLACE In comparison with levels in outdoor air, humans in confined air spaces, particularly in underground work areas such as mines and buildings, are exposed to elevated concentrations of radon and its decay products. Exhalation of radon from ordinary rock and soils and from radon-rich water can cause significant radon concentrations in tunnels, power stations, caves, public baths, and spas. The average radon concentrations in houses are generally much lower than the average radon concentrations in underground ore mines.

Workers are exposed to radon in several occupations. In countries for which data were available, concentrations of radon decay products in underground mines are now typically less than 1000 Bq/m3 EEC Rn (approx. 28 pCi/l). Underground uranium miners are exposed to the highest levels of radon and its decay products. Other underground workers and certain mineral processing workers may also be exposed to significant levels.

Radon Causes Lung Cancer
Monday, 13 April 2009 14:52

Probably the most dangerous part of radon gas is you cannot see it.  You also cannot smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home.  As the only gas in the decay chains of radioactive heavy metals, radon and its floating radioactive products can easily get into human body by inhalation.  Whenever you breathe in air containing radon, it increases your risk of getting lung cancer.  The National Academy of Sciences and the Environment Protection Agency (2003) estimate that in the U.S., radon in homes causes 21,100 lung cancer deaths each year.

Radiation is called the "complete carcinogen" because, unlike chemical carcinogens, it alone can initiate, promote and propagate cancer.  The primary site of radioactive exposure to most people is their home. The average person receives a higher radiation dose from radon at home than from all other natural or man-made sources combined.

Radon is a proven and very potent "Class A" carcinogen.  Safety limits on toxins or carcinogens in food or water are set at levels thousand times less lethal than what is the risk from radon in an average American home.  "Radon in residential homes causes more deaths than fires, drowning and airplane crashes combined." (EPA)

The lung cancer crisis

After smoking, "radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer." (Surgeon General) Among non-smokers, radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer deaths beating out second hand smoking. Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer of all Americans, both men and women, claiming 160,000 lives every year - more than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer combined.  Over 171,000 cases of new lung cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.

The leading three causes of cancer deaths Men & Women: 

Lung cancer is the deadliest of all cancers – its 5-year survival rate is only 10 to 14 percent. By the time people develop symptoms (shortness of breath, coughing, bloody sputum), the cancer has grown to the size of an orange or has spread to other organs. While the death rates for many types of cancer have been declining during the last 60 years, the age-adjusted incidence and mortality rates for lung cancer have been rising.

There is a lung cancer crisis, particularly among women. Lung cancer deaths have increased by 20% among men during the past two decades but by 150% among women, and in the 1990's alone, lung cancer deaths of white females have increased 60%.

Radon Mitigation Improves Indoor Air Quality and Radiation Protection
Tuesday, 10 February 2009 07:09

(Source: Bob Molton) 

Should you test your home for radon gas? The only answer is YES! Why? Because radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and reducing your risk is easy.

You cannot see, smell, or taste radon. However, it still may be a problem in your home. The only way to know for sure if you have a problem is if you run a simple radon test in your home. Most radon test kits are performed over a 48 hour time span, and usually up to a week for the results to come back from the lab. There are quicker ways to test your home, such as using and electronic testing device. These methods are more expensive, and provide the same results as the 48 hour canisters do. If you have the extra time it's advisable to use the simple canister test kits. You can these at your local hardware store.

If you discover that your home does have radon levels of 4 pCi/L (pico curries per liter) or higher, you'll probably want to take action and have some type of radon remediation done in your home. This sounds more involved than it is, but rest assured you can have this done in one afternoon with results guaranteed below 4pCi/L. This will give you the radiation protection you and your family deserve.

Radon Remediation can be done in a number of different ways. It does depend on the design of your home, the square footage, whether you have drain tile and or a sump pit, or a crawl space etc... These things are commonly dealt with and a qualified radon mitigation technician will be able to tell you exactly what he will need to do to your home to get the lowest radon level possible for your home.

MYTH #1. My home is new so I don't have a radon problem.

Fact: This is simply not true. New homes can have just as much radon inside as an older home and sometimes even more depending on how tight the house is built.

MYTH #2. My neighbor doesn't have high radon levels so my house won't either.

Fact: This is also not true. Your home could have twice as much radon as your neighbors home. This depends on if your house has a crawl space how tight it is, cracks in the floor, open sump lids etc...

MYTH #3. Radon isn't really harmful, I've lived here for 25 years and don't have any health problems.

Fact: The truth is that radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Only people that smoke have a higher risk of getting lung cancer. You will reduce the risk of lung cancer when you reduce the radon levels, even if you have lived with an elevated radon level for a long time.

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