Radon is a colourless, odourless gas which is inert in nature and is formed from the decomposition of elements like uranium, polonium, and thorium. Radon can be found in almost everywhere- in the soil, in drinking water and even on rocks. When radon is released into the atmosphere, it is highly diluted and doesn’t pose much threat. But when this carcinogenic gas gets concentrated in high quantities in enclosed places, it only then does it become harmful for us, and in many cases, lethal.
Radon in homes generally comes from the underlying soil. Air pressure in your house is generally lower than that of the surrounding soil. As such, there will be an inflow of gases from the soil into your houses through various cracks, holes, pipelines and any other gaps it can find. These gases also include the deadly radon. It is said that in The US, radon in homes claims more lives annually than any other household dangers like fires or poisoning.
How to detect radon
Radon in homes can be easily detected and many states in the US provide free radon testing- kits to its citizens. Here are some ways you can check radon in home:
- Charcoal detectors- For seven days, these detectors are left at your home, exposed to its air. After the stipulated time is over, the detectors are sealed and sent for analysing. This method can cost around $35-$100.
- Passive Alpha track detectors- Just like with charcoal detectors, these too need exposure to the air of your house, but for a longer period of time (up to 1year) after which they too are sent to the laboratory for analysis.
- Active Alpha track detectors- Unlike the Passive Alpha Track detectors, these are faster, needing exposure up to about 4 weeks and are also much more accurate and reliable.
- Electret- Ion Chamber (E-perm)- These come in two variants for short term and long term use. The short term use variant takes up to a few weeks while the long-term one requires several weeks or even months.
- Continuous monitoring through devices which can detect and report levels of radon in home on an hourly basis is the most accurate method among all these methods.
Though in varying levels, there is always radon in homes. Radon concentration gets thinner as you go higher in the building as radon seeps into the house ground-up.So testing must be done on all floors as they will all have varying results. Radon can have serious health effects and is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking in the US. In case of high radon levels detected, you should increase ventilation below the flooring to draw out radon from the basement area and release it outside where it is not harmful. You should also take care to seal all cracks and openings on the floor to minimalise seepage into the house. Radon can also be found in groundwater, so you must conduct routine check ups even to your groundwater supply. All these methods, testing and subsequent fixing may seem cumbersome, but in reality, safety today can ensure you a bright future tomorrow. So make hay while the sun shines and test the radon levels at your home today.