Radon – Is your Home Protected?

breathe fresh radon in home

What is Radon and where is it Found?

Radon is a radioactive, invisible, unscented and flavorless noble chemical gas with an Rn symbol and atomic number 86 that is formed in the Earth’s crust. It is released in the atmosphere and forms part of the air that we breathe.  Because of its imperceptible characteristics, Radon in homes is a grim source of indoor air pollution, which can be a silent killer in our midst. Thus, maintaining low radon concentrations in our homes and workplaces is vital to attaining health.

Sources of Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is produced from the natural breakdown or radioactive decay of uranium and thorium in the earth’s crust. When radon gas deteriorates, it releases radioactive energy as alpha particle, which is a health hazard. Since it comes from the earth’s crust, the level of radon-gas varies from place to place depending on the uranium content of the location. While it is often found in the soil, there is also radon in water because it can also permeate in well waters hot springs and cold springs, making water unsafe to drink. Thus, the main source of radon indoors is through the penetration and insinuation of radon gas from soil into structures and edifices as well as water supplies.

Radon in houses, workplaces and business

The radioactive radon gas is normally found in homes across the world including India. Radon in Indian homes is especially undetected because few people are aware of radon or its dangers. It usually rises through the soil to the air above and seeps into home through cracks and holes in the floor, walls and the structural foundation. Gases permeate houses via a suction-like way.  Since the pressure inside homes is lower, air from high pressure areas like those in the soil move to the lower pressure areas like a suction thus allow radon and other gas to enter the living space through cracks and gaps.  When these gases are confined inside houses, it accumulates in dangerous concentration levels.

Similarly, radon gases also accumulate in buildings for workplaces, classrooms and other business especially in the low areas like the basements and scuttle areas.  Because of differences in atmospheric pressure and densities, radon gasses pass in cracks the building’s foundation or through hot water tank, sink or shower in the toilets.  Radon can also build up in the top floors in the building because of lack of proper ventilation, innate updraft of gasses or because of the materials used for the building.

Safe Radon levels at home

Zero levels of radon in home is most ideal.  However, since this is a naturally occurring gas, this is most likely impossible to achieve. A 0 – 48 Bq/m³ levels of radon is safe and normal.  If it reaches 100 Bq/ m3, a ventilation should be advisable.  However, if this level remains the same for the next 3 months, it would be advisable to contact a radon mitigating professional because long exposure to these concentration levels can post serious health hazards in the long run for people living in the building or house. 

Impact of Radon

Radon gas is the primary cause of lung cancer for people who don’t smoke cigarettes. Although practically all of us is exposed to small dosages of radon, prolong exposure can lead to cancer. Symptoms to long term radon exposure starts with obstinate coughing, croakiness, breathlessness and shortness of breath, blood coughing, chest aches, loss appetite and lung infection.

As a radioactive material, exposure to high concentrations of radon will lead of cancer as the cell’s DNA blue print is damaged. Instead of replicating normal cells, the radiation can lead to producing cancer cells. As a gaseous radioactive material, radon radiation is a major health concern because it is inhaled through the lungs or ingested when drinking contaminated water for radon in water which can directly damage internal tissues.

How to measure Radon?

In lieu of the adverse health impacts of Radon, it is important to conduct regular monitoring of indoor pollution in homes and in buildings or workplaces. While we may know the safety and harmful levels, it is practically impossible to detect radon levels because it’s odorless and invisible.

Fortunately for us, there is already a smart radon gas detector available in the market that is easy to install and use. These devices are simply mounted in a wall or ceiling. It is then integrated with an app in your mobile device which will in turn signal you of the radon levels where you place the sensor is safe or hazardous. These radon detectors are so accurate that any changes in the radon content in your indoor ambiance is immediately reflected.  More importantly, it sends you a warning signal if the radon levels have reached the danger threshold in your home or office.

Another alternative is using charcoal test kits. This test basically involves letting charcoal absorb radon in the atmosphere then bringing the charcoal in the lab for analysis which is rather inconvenient. However, a radon gas detector for monitoring radon in home is a lot accurate, easier to use and understand as it will show you if you have normal and acceptable levels and signal you of any warning.

How to reduce Radon in home?

Ventilation. Since radon is a gas, the best way to remove radon in home and building is install proper ventilation system.  This may be in the form of windows or openings, putting an exhaust system, using an electric fan.  What is important is that you are able to dissipate the indoor air and allow air from the outside to flow to the inside premises.  This is the natural way to reduce radon indoors.

Fix the structure. Once you have discovered that radon concentration levels are high within the indoor premises, you should immediately contact a radon mitigation contractor to fix the place by sealing cracks in floors and walls, mending gaps in service pipes, fixing cavities in the walls and fixing the water supply.  These holes are essentially the access points for radon gases to enter the building or your home.

Increase indoor pressure.  Increasing air pressure indoors will push away radon gases entering the space.  This can be done by installing exhaust fans as well as using combusting equipment such as fireplaces.  It is also important to open your windows in order to dissipate or expend smoke emanating from this equipment. Meanwhile, you should also seal HVAC system that has cold-air return registers to prevent air leakage into air ducts.

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