Buying or maintaining a home means being aware of possible dangers and working to eliminate them. The dangers of radon exposure are something to be concerned about since radon exists throughout the United States and can affect any residential property. Knowing what it is, how you are exposed, the dangers, and what can be done to detect radon are things all people should be aware of.
What is Radon?
Radon is a type of gas that is radioactive and naturally occurring. It does not have any color, smell, or taste. This means that without proper testing, radon is undetectable. Radon gas is produced from uranium’s natural radioactive decay and is present in soil, rocks, and sometimes in groundwater. It typically dilutes harmlessly outdoors, but inside it has the ability to accumulate to unsafe levels.
How Are People Exposed to Radon?
There are several ways for this gas to get into a home and these may include:
- Solid walls or floors have cracks in them
- Gaps in suspended floors
- Cavities inside the walls of a home
- Construction joints
- Gaps around service pipes
- The home’s water supply
On the inside of a house, the air pressure tends to be lower compared to the soil pressure or the pressure below a home’s foundation. Suction is created from these differences in pressure. This allows any cracks in the home to essentially draw radon inside.
The water going into a home may also bring radon inside. This is usually only a concern if a home is supplied by a well or other type of groundwater. When a home’s water comes from a groundwater source, this gas can escape when using water to wash dishes, shower, drink, or cook.
What Are the Dangers of Radon Exposure?
The dangers of radon exposure at unsafe levels for a long period of time are generally associated with lung cancer. It is estimated that three to 14 percent of lung cancers are due to radon exposure. In the United States, radon gas is the second leading cause of this cancer in non-smokers. Breathing in radon gas damages lung cells and cancer usually develops in 5 to 25 years, depending on the levels of radon in the home. Early symptoms may include:
- Coughing up blood
- Shortness of breath
- A persistent cough
- Chest pain, especially when laughing or coughing
- Frequent pneumonia, bronchitis, and other infections of the lungs
Those who are exposed to this gas and smoke cigarettes are at a higher risk for lung cancer, however, non-smokers are also at risk.
How Do You Inspect Your Home for Radon?
It is estimated that radon levels exist beyond what is considered safe by the EPA in approximately one in every 15 homes. The only way to detect radon and get an accurate result is to hire a certified professional to test your home for radon.
It is important that you know the radon levels in your home so that you can take measures to mitigate high levels of radon. A professional home inspector who tests for radon can provide you with detailed results and offer advice about the next steps to take if radon mitigation is necessary.
With this information, you can see that the dangers of radon exposure are serious, and unsafe levels indoors are not uncommon. A professional radon test will let you know where your home stands so that you can make the best choices to protect your family from radon.