You are likely familiar with lung cancer, but it may surprise you to learn that the second leading cause of the deadly disease is radon — a gas that could be underneath your home.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is colorless and odorless. It is produced by uranium decay in rocks and soil and is found in trace amounts throughout the atmosphere. Fortunately, it dilutes quickly outdoors so is not a health concern there.
However, when radon particles are trapped in buildings, like your house, they can be toxic.
“These particles are in the air we breathe,” the Environmental Protection Agency says. “Once inhaled, they can be deposited in our lungs. The energy associated with these particles can alter cell DNA, thus increasing the risk of lung cancer.”
Some misconceptions about radon may lead you to ignore the problems, so here are three myths you may have heard and the truth behind each one.
Myth: Only old houses have radon problems.
The truth is radon can enter any home, new or old, through cracks in the foundation. The difference in air pressure between the inside of your house and the soil outside play an important role.
“If the air pressure of a house is greater than the soil beneath it, radon will remain outside,” the EPA says. “However, if the air pressure of a house is lower than the surrounding soil (which is usually the case), the house will act as a vacuum, sucking radon gas inside.”
Radon levels tend to be higher in winter than summer, as you close doors and windows and run heaters, all of which contribute to the negative pressure that allows radon to seep inside.
Myth: Radon is a rare problem.
Actually, as many as 1 in 15 homes have an elevated radon level.
You can check your home’s risk on the EPA’s radon zone map, which classifies regions throughout the country based on indoor radon measurements, soil composition, atmospheric radioactivity, and foundation types. Radon measurements are expressed as picocuries per liter of air, and the EPA map puts each county into one of three zones, depending on the predicted pCi/L indoors:
· Zone 1 counties have predicted indoor radon levels higher than 4 pCi/L.
· Zone 2 counties have predicted indoor radon levels from 2 to 4 pCi/L.
· Zone 3 counties have predicted indoor radon levels less than 2 pCi/L.
The entire state of Arizona is classified as Zone 2.
Myth: You’ll notice symptoms if radon is in your home.
Unfortunately, radon poisoning doesn’t produce immediate signs, so you may not know you’ve been exposed until you develop symptoms of lung cancer.
Because radon is odorless, tasteless, and colorless, the only way to know whether it is in your home is through testing with a radon gas measurement specialist. During an appointment with an Arizona Foundation Solutions specialist, testing kits are placed throughout your home to collect air samples for one hour. The specialist then collects the kits and sends them to a lab for testing.
If the test results indicate levels over 2.8 pCi/L, your specialist will help you determine the best options for mitigation. Levels over 4 pCi/L are considered more hazardous, and mitigation is highly recommended.
If you choose to move forward with mitigation, your radon mitigation system will involve installing PVC piping that collects soil gases beneath your home or in your crawl space. It then pipes the gases out through a radon depressurization exhaust vent.
For more information or to schedule a radon test, visit FoundationRepairsAZ.com.