Air Quality Concern in America

Radon gas is a radioactive substance that is a recognized health threat. It occurs naturally as uranium in rock, soil, and water break down. The substance then finds its way into structures--through cracks in the foundation, wall cavities, open spaces around pipes, and other points of entry--and into the indoor air we breathe. Radon gas also gets into our water supplies. Radon gas does not discriminate or know boundaries: it invades all types of buildings from homes to hospitals and is found all over the world. Since people spend more time at home than in any other location, your dwelling space is where you and your family are at the greatest risk for exposure. It is estimated that some 6 million American homes have radon gas levels exceeding 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). For this reason, testing is important to determine the amount in your dwelling. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls for determining the levels of radon gas in schools, as well. When concentration of the gas reaches this level, the EPA recommends taking steps to reduce it.

This recommendation is for a good reason. The EPA estimates that radon gas is the chief cause of lung cancer for people who don’t smoke and the second-highest instigator of the disease in the general population. Furthermore, the organization believes that there is no safe amount of radon gas. In homes with the above-mentioned level, the lifetime chances of developing the malady are 1% for nonsmokers, 3% for people who have quit the habit, and 5% for smokers. Children are especially vulnerable; because their lungs are shaped differently and are smaller than an adult’s and because they breathe at a faster rate, youngsters receive a greater concentration of radiation. Their chances of developing the disease may be nearly double those of grownups. Every year, approximately 21,000 patients succumb to lung cancer caused by radon gas; approximately 2,900 of them have never smoked.

The EPA has established guidelines to determine and reduce the radon gas level in the home. The first recommended step is a preliminary measurement of the substance’s level. This first measurement should be a short-term test conducted on the lowest floor where people live. The analysis, which is performed for 2 to 90 days, can let people know in a short time if their home has a high level of radon gas. If the concentration is below 4 pCi/L, there is no need for a follow-up test, although future testing is recommended to ensure that the amount of radon in the air remains at a safe level. If the radon gas concentration is higher than 4 pCi/L, a second short-term test is strongly advised. A long-term analysis is recommended if results are not needed immediately; it provides a better clue as to the amount of radon gas in the home throughout the year. Since the environment and other factors affect levels (there is a higher concentration in the winter, for example), long-term testing is more accurate.

EPA recommendations go further. Homes being put on the market should be tested for radon gas levels and problems corrected before they are offered for sale. In addition, new homes can be constructed in a manner which inhibits radon gas seepage. EPA guidelines call for such construction in areas prone to radon gas contamination. Owners of existing homes with high concentrations are advised to ask a qualified mitigator to determine the cost of making their dwellings resistant to radon gas infiltration. The expense of making your home impervious to radon gas is comparable to that of many other repairs.

As serious a health concern as airborne radon gas is, the nasty substance can enter your home via another source: your water supply. The problem arises when showers and other uses of water send radon gas into the air. If your H20 comes from surface water, there is less cause for concern than if the source is ground water. If you get your water from a well or a municipal supply that uses ground water, and you're concerned that it's raising the radon gas concentration in the air, it's a good idea to get in touch with the supplier. Should your water come from a ground supply and the level in your home is high, the EPA recommends having it tested. Fixing the problem is not difficult; treatment can keep radon gas from entering your home.

If you are concerned about the level of radon gas in your home, or have a problem that needs addressing, a reputable company like SWAT Environmental can assist you wherever you live. The benefits to those you love are worth the small investment of your time, and the price is miniscule in relation to greater health and peace of mind.

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Radon Test Results