Blog

Radon Awareness

Tuesday, February 13th, 2018 by John Munos


What is Radon?

Radon is a chemical element with symbol Rn and atomic number 86. It is a radioactive, colorless, odorless, tasteless noble gas, occurring naturally. Radon gas is continually released by uranium-bearing rocks and soil as the uranium undergoes natural radioactive decay.  The gas moves through the soil freely because it is chemically non-reactive and does not combine with other materials. There are trace amounts of uranium in the soil all over the globe. Some areas have higher concentrations than others.

IL & IA EPA Map of Radon Zones

How was it discovered?

Radon has been around forever, but 1984 scientists started to realize the danger it poses in our homes. All thanks to Stanley Watras, a construction engineer at a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. The power plant had a radiation monitor installed to check that workers did not accidently accumulate an unsafe dose of radiation at work. The plant was under construction at the time, so there was no nuclear fuel, thus no way for Mr. Watras to have been exposed to any radiation. After Mr. Watras continued setting off the radiation alarms over the next few weeks, a team of specialist went to his home and discovered that Mr. Watras was not picking up the radiation at work but rather was bringing it to work from home! They measured radiation levels at his home and found them to be 700 times higher than the current EPA action level of 4pCi/L. The Source of this enormous amount of radiation turned out to be radon.

 

How does it get into a home?

When the radon gas reaches the outdoor air, it is quickly diluted to low concentrations.  However, radon can accumulate under the slabs and foundations of buildings and can easily enter through cracks and openings, sometimes causing high indoor concentrations. It is also distributed thru out the home via the stack effect. The stack effect is the natural movement of air into and out of buildings, chimneys, and flue stacks, resulting from air buoyancy. Buoyancy occurs due to a difference in indoor-to-outdoor air density from temperature and moisture differences. The result is either a positive or negative buoyancy force. The greater the thermal difference and the height of the structure, the greater the buoyancy force, and thus the stack effect.

 

How does it cause harm?

Radon it self doesn’t cause lung cancer itself, It’s the by-product of radon that causes lung cancer. When we breathe, we are constantly passing air into our lungs and out of them. In this process, the radon gas simply goes in and out, doing little damage, but the radon by-product, being basically solid materials, and sometimes being electrically charged, can stick to the surfaces of our bronchial tubes. This puts them right where they can do the most harm, for the cells lining our bronchial tubes are among the cells of our body most sensitive to radiation-induced cancer. The alpha particles emitted in the decay of radon by-product can reach these very sensitive cells because they are deposited so close to them. To make matters very much worse, alpha particles are much more efficient than other types of radiation for inducing cancer.

What levels are safe?

Although radon in homes has been declared a national health problem, there are no federal or state standards. The Environment Protection Agency was given the task to developing some practical guidelines. The EPA recommends fixing your home if the radon level inside is 4.0 pCi/L or higher. EPA does not force homeowners to install a radon mitigation system, leaving the decision up to each homeowner. People spend most of their time at home but more in case of the elderly and children. Although the 4pCi/L level has become a benchmark, it still carries considerable risk- Equivalent to getting a chest x-ray or smoking 10 cigarettes each day. A safe level of radon gas is no radon gas. Any radon exposure has some risk of causing lung cancer. The lower the radon level in your home, the lower your family’s risk of lung cancer.

 

How can you test your home?

Radon testing is easy and the only way to find out if you have a radon problem in your home. Since you cannot see or smell radon, special equipment is needed to detect it. When you’re ready to test your home, you can order a radon test kit by mail from a qualified radon measurement services provider or laboratory. You can also hire a qualified radon tester, who will use a radon device(s) suitable to your situation. DIY radon test kits are passive testing devices. These include charcoal canisters that remain in the home for a few days to measure the varying radon levels. As the levels shift throughout the day due to changes in temperature, wind, encapsulation, soil, moisture, seasonal changes, and more; your test will still be able to provide an accurate average of the radon readings. They are available in hardware stores or thru MidAmerica Basement Systems. Active testing device(s) include Continuous radon monitors. They continuously measure and record the amount of radon or its decay products in the air. Providing a report of this information which can reveal any unusual or abnormal swings in the radon level during the test period.

 

How can MidAmerica Basement Systems help with Radon?

MidAmerica Basement Systems of Illinois and Iowa can help you, by providing radon testing and a free quote on the cost of a installing a radon mitigation system in your home. Our radon gas experts can inspect your home and install a mitigation system to significantly reduce radon problems within your home! MidAmerica Basement Systems is a locally owned company specializing in radon testing and radon mitigation systems. In as little as two days we can fully inspect and conduct a radon test in your home, to ensure you a safe and healthier home. MidAmerica Basement Systems' radon mitigation systems use sub-slab depressurization to reduce radon levels.

 

Radon Mitigation System

How Mitigation Systems Work

• PVC pipe Collects soil gasses

• Radon piped upwards in the building

• A radon depressurization vent forces radon out from your home

 

MidAmerica Basement Systems can install a radon mitigation system that is compatible with the current waterproofing system in your basement or crawl space. We also offer vapor intrusion mitigation, air cleaners, and other indoor air quality services.

 

MidAmerica Basement Systems also provides multifamily radon mitigation in compliance with the HUD Radon Policy. If testing confirms radon levels above 4 picocuries (pCi/L), mitigation must be performed by a radon professional reduce the level of radon gas in the air to a safe amount.

At MidAmerica Basement Systems our purpose is to redefine our industry. We are doing things differently than anyone else in our industry and will continue to do so. But here’s the beauty in the statement – it’s never-ending. Meaning, we’ll never stop redefining. Once we create a “new way” and It becomes status quo, we’ll redefine again and again. We are always expanding our knowledge and training continuously to deliver the best customer experience, and offer a permanent solution that we stand behind.

MidAmerica Basement Systems Crew

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MidAmerica Basement Systems
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