Radon is a radioactive gas created during the natural breakdown of underground radioactive metals. Anywhere that underground radioactive metals are present, radon gas is escaping from the ground. But radon gas is only dangerous when it’s confined in an indoor space – like a basement or crawlspace. Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas – so there aren’t any warning signs that you could have a radon problem. Also, medical studies have shown that it can take 5 to 25 years for symptoms of radon exposure to appear.
Radon in the home
Radon typically enters the home at the lowest point; for most homes that would be the basement or crawlspace. In a crawlspace, uncovered soil will allow radon gas to leak up against the subfloor above. In a basement, radon gas can enter through foundation cracks or an uncovered sump pump. Additionally, poor ventilation in a basement just makes a radon problem even worse.
The only way to know for certain if your home has radon problems is with a radon test conducted by a state licensed professional.
Since there aren’t any telltale signs of radon gas, every homeowner should honestly have their home tested just to be sure. A short term radon test (3-4 days) can be done to give a homeowner an idea of their current radon levels. Long term (up to 90 days) follow up tests can also be conducted after the results of the initial short term test.
What do your results mean?
The Environmental Protection Agency has set a threshold of 4 PicoCuries/Liter (pCi/L) or higher as the point where you should take corrective action in your home. A PicoCurie is simply a measure of radioactivity. Let’s say that your results are right around 4 pCi/L and you’d like to get more accurate results to see if your home needs a mitigation system, the best course of action would be a long-term test to give you more precise results from a larger sample size.The EPA does note, however, that if your short term tests are at least double the 4 pCi/L threshold, immediate action is recommended.