Winter’s seasonal cold and damp means indoor air quality can become an issue, particularly for those with respiratory illness. Not surprisingly, January’s designation by the Environmental Protection Agency as “Radon Action Month,” draws attention to the risks associated with radon in the home and its negative effect on indoor air quality.
You can’t see, smell or taste radon, but the gas is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America. Radon created by the naturally occurring uranium that you would find in soil or water, normally associated with mountains, particularly areas with hot or “radium” springs.
In North Carolina, radon is emitted at varying levels and in different locations, according to the Department of Public Health. The piedmont and mountain counties are estimated to have the greatest proportion of homes with elevated levels of radon.
In the western region, homes in Buncombe and Henderson counties have historically high radon levels, ranking level 1 on the scale measuring exposure. That ranking, based on actual data gathered from area homes, suggests that these counties have the highest potential for a predicted average indoor radon screening level at or greater than, 4 pCi/L (pico curies per liter).
Inside the home, levels of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or more require action. If a home has gaps or cracks in the foundation walls, slab floor, or in the crawlspace, then the likelihood increases that radon will be drawn into indoor air.
Due to the type of rock formations in this region, every home in the Carolina mountains is at higher risk of having radon gas indoors at some concentration. The N.C. Radon Program recommends that all homes be tested, as radon has the potential to erode lung health and increase risk for lung cancer. Exposure claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans each year, according to the EPA.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Radon levels may vary daily, weekly, and seasonally. For a true determination of the radon status in your home, test every so often under various seasonal conditions. Radon gas is heavier than normal room air. It “falls” to, or at least tends to not move away from, lower levels. Expect radon levels to be higher in the downstairs bedroom than it is in the upstairs bedroom. In other words, be sure you’re at least testing the frequented downstairs rooms.
- Test all of the places where you spend a lot of hours breathing indoors: office, school, daycare, studio, workshop, workplace, bedroom, living room, reading room. The long-term inhalation of radon gas is the factor erodes lung health and increases risk for lung cancer. Therefore, elevated concentrations of radon gas in an area folks don’t spend much time is not necessarily a problem. The message here is, if you’re not going to be testing all rooms, then at least test the rooms in which spend most of your time.
- Air circulates throughout your home, carrying radon gas with it. Identify the air movement patterns in your home before you begin any radon control measures. A visit by a home health and performance professional will identify what you should be doing to make yours a healthier indoor environment.
Many of my clients ask me to check the radon levels in their homes, and others choose the do-it-yourself approach. Either way, placing radon sampling devices in your home is a good preventative measure to consider.
For short term measurements, I suggest placing the device on Wednesday or Thursday, then leaving it “sniff” the indoor air quality that your family members breathe daily. Then, on Monday, it’s time to collect the devices and determine whether radon is a factor in your home.
After collection, devices are sent to a lab to get the results report. My clients either rest assured that their family is safe from radon, or learn that radon exposure is a healthiness issue inside their home.
If a radon test reveals unsafe levels, a second test is likely needed, long-term tests may be indicated, or both. When there’s proof of radon indoors, I make certain each homeowner understands the steps he or she needs to take to protect themselves and their families, ensuring ensure optimal health for the client and family at home.
Radon is an everybody problem. Let me know if I can help by sending me a message here.
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