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How Does Radon Get Into My House?

Radon mitigation is an important home service that many homeowners have been learning more about since information about the harmful effects of radon exposure is becoming more prevalent to obtain. As such, realtors and building contractors are informing their customers of radon testing and mitigation because unless a home has been tested there’s virtually no way anyone would be able to know whether a home had radon or how much.

The Facts

Radon is a toxic radioactive gas that results from the uranium decay of soil. First the uranium decays into radium only to later release the gas into the air. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates.4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) as the national average for the outdoor air, while 1.5 pCi/L is the national average for the indoor air.

Radon is considered toxic because it’s a proven Class A carcinogen, lung cancer to be exact. It’s the second leading cause of lung cancer and causes an estimated 20,000 deaths each year.

Other Class A carcinogens include arsenic, asbestos and benzene. All homeowners are encouraged to learn about the risks and effects of radon exposure in order to better protect against contracting lung cancer. Knowledge is power and before learning about testing and mitigation, it’s time to learn how the radon actually enters a home.

Radon in Homes

There are several types of foundations. Of course there’s a slab-on-grade, basement or crawlspace and the manufactured homes– and all can have high radon levels.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, one in six homes in the U.S are being built with radon resistant systems, which amount to about 200,000 homes each year. When considering the counties with the high estimated radon levels, one in every three homes is built with a radon resistance system

Although this doesn’t explain how radon enters into a home, it shows how any home is susceptible and that some builders are accommodating to this growing need to prevent radon exposure. However, not every builder does and it’s worth asking– if interested.

How Gas Enters

Gas can enter a home through the foundation because the uranium is within the soil. Once the uranium decays and the radon gas enters into the air beneath or around your foundation, it will enter your home through even the slightest crack or hole.

Radon commonly enters a home because of the stack effect, a natural process involving the rotation and influx of air. Many know that warm air rises, but that’s only part of the process. Once the warmer air rises and escapes through the top of the home, the unconditioned and cooler air from the outside replaces this escaped air. This unconditioned air that enters the home is what can carry the radon.

The air is being pushed around because of the difference in pressure from inside and outside the house. Since the inside pressure is lower than outside pressure, the radon and other air is pulled in like through a vacuum through any cracks and holes. Radon gets trapped inside and builds up.

Testing and Mitigation

The safest option for any homeowner is to hire a radon mitigation expert to test the home. Whether the levels are above the EPA’s action level of 4.0 pCi/L or if they’re below, an expert can mitigate the home to reduce the levels as much as possible. In addition, be sure to inquire about maintenance checkups and what you can do to keep your home a safe place from radon.