5 Questions You Need to Know about Radon

If you’re buying a home in the mountains, you need to know about radon.

Did you know that the ground under your home may be trying to kill you? No, you’re not located on top of an ancient Native American burial ground (probably). But naturally occurring radon in the bedrock could be leaching into your home and causing health problems.

If you’re buying a home in the mountains, you need to know about radon. Here are five questions to get you started:

What is Radon?

Radon is a naturally radioactive, colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. It is a noble element (atomic number 86) on the periodic table with a fast decay rate (3.8 days) that is the immediate decay product of radium. Differences in local geology mean that the elements that produce radon (including uranium and thorium) vary by location.

As an easily inhaled gas, radon can be a significant health hazard. Because of its density, radon tends to accumulate in buildings, especially in low-lying areas like basements. According to the EPA, radon is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer, after cigarette smoking, and the most frequent cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.

How does Radon Testing Work?

If you are buying a home, radon testing should be one of the inspections you make before closing. Radon tests can be performed by professionals or with a “do it yourself” kit. There are short-term (2–90 days) and long-term (3+ months) versions of the test. Because radon levels can vary day-to-day and seasonally, it’s important to perform several short-term tests over time, if you choose that route.

There are two categories of radon test devices designed to detect radon gas and the daughter products of its decay. Passive devices are less expensive to install but generally require lab analysis after the test is complete. They include alpha track detectors, charcoal canisters, charcoal liquid scintillation detectors, and electret ion detectors. Active devices feature continuous monitoring devices and generally require professionally trained testers for their operation.

What Level of Radon Requires Mitigation?

The EPA recommends that you take action if your home’s indoor radon levels test at 4 pCi/L or higher. The World Health Organization’s International Radon Project recommends a lower action level of 2.7 pCi/l. Some U.S. states recommend achieving 2.0 pCi/L or less.

If your home’s radon levels are testing much higher than is safe, you should also check your well water for radon.

How do Radon Mitigation Systems Work?

A radon mitigation system is any process designed to reduce radon concentrations in the indoor air of your home. Your radon mitigation system should be chosen based on the type of foundation in your home. For homes with multiple foundation types (e.g., basement on one end of the home, slab-on-grade on the other), you may have to employ multiple strategies.

If possible, methods that prevent radon from entering the home in the first place are preferable to removing radon once in the home. Begin by sealing cracks and other openings in the floors and walls through which radon may be entering the home. Contractors can also install systems of underground pipes and exhaust fans, alternately called sub-slab depressurization, soil suction, or active soil depressurization (ASD).

Standard radon reduction systems are usually effective within 24 hours and maintain low levels as long as the fan is operating. The cost of radon mitigation systems can be as affordable as other basic home repairs, or more expensive depending on the service.

Who can I Call for Help with Radon Removal?

Radon mitigation can feel complicated for new buyers with a lot of other home systems on their mind. Luckily, the expert REALTORSⓇ at Beverly-Hanks are here to help! We have experience dealing with radon, and we can recommend local professionals who can assist. Contact us today to speak with your Beverly-Hanks real estate agent about radon mitigation in Western North Carolina.


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