How to Protect Your Home from Radon Gas

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According to the Surgeon General, radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States (second only to cigarette smoking). Also, since radon gas is the natural result of the breakdowns of deposits of uranium and radium present in virtually all soils in the United States it could be in your home. Since radon is colorless and odorless, you can't even tell it's there.

Things You'll Need

  • concrete patching compound for filling any cracks in foundation
  • concrete sealing paint to minimize gas inflow
  • radon test kit (available at home stores)

Detecting Radon Gas

  • Testing for the presence of radon gas is the only way to tell conclusively if radon is present in your home. You have a couple of options.

  • Hire a professional home inspector who offers radon testing. This is the quickest way to determine if there is radon present in your home. This will cost anywhere from $150 to $500.

  • Test for the presence of radon yourself. Passive radon detectors are available at home centers and hardware stores for approximately $20 to $30 and you can often get a similar kit online even cheaper.

  • Install a radon detector in your basement (radon is a heavy gas and will tend to settle in the basement). Leave it for a few days (usually 3 to 7). At the end of the test period, send the test kit to the address on the package. The lab will interpret the test and provide you with the results.

Dealing with Radon Gas

  • Improve the ventilation in your home (particularly the basement). Seal any cracks in the foundation. This may help reduce radon penetration.

  • Cover any exposed earth walls in the basement. This will reduce radon entry.

  • Paint cement floors and walls with "radon-sealing paint." This reportedly reduces radon entry into the house by sealing tiny capillaries in the concrete through which radon migrates into the house.

  • Install a "radon mitigation system" will definitely reduce radon levels in your home. A radon mitigation system actually puts drainpipes under your house foundation and vents the radon gas into the surrounding air where it disperses harmlessly. A professionally installed system will cost $1000 or more.

  • Remove any radon that might enter the house dissolved in water. Well water may contain dissolved radon that is released when the water is heated. Either an aeration system or a charcoal filter system can remove radon from water. These systems need to be installed where the main water supply enters the house.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you decide to test for radon yourself, read and follow the test kit manufacturer's instructions exactly.
  • Keep in mind, radon is a naturally occurring gas, present virtually everywhere in the world and its relative danger is open to scientific debate. While the Environmental Protection Agency feels that a radon concentration level above 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) is dangerous, the World Health Organization and a number of other countries do not agree with the EPA's numbers. For example, in Sweden the acceptable concentration level is 10.8 pCi/L.
  • If you are concerned with the potential of radon gas in your home the Environmental Protection Agency Web site at www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/consguid.html, provides a wealth of information. Searching at the website under "state radon contacts" will provide information on radon gas detection and mitigation in your state.

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