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Radon is an odorless, invisible gas that may be lurking in homes even if homeowners are unaware of its presence. Although it is a naturally occurring substance, radon has the potential to cause serious illness. Therefore, its detection and reduction are paramount.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Surgeon General's Office have estimated that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused each year by radon, which is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The EPA further notes that many homes are in radon danger areas. Nearly one in three homes checked in seven states and on three lands designated for Native Americans had screening levels over 4 pCi/L, the EPA's recommended action level for radon exposure. According to Air Chek, Inc., a radon testing resource, a radon level of 4 pCi/l is equal to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if a person was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site.
Testing can determine if radon is present in a home. Homeowners can rely on professional companies or purchase self-testing kits at home improvement retailers. If a test comes back positive for high levels, conduct a follow-up test before taking any measures to fix the problem. Unusual weather can increase radon levels. If repeat testing yields the same results, efforts to reduce radon levels are necessary.
Homeowners must keep in mind that no two situations are the same and various techniques may be necessary to reduce radon levels in a home. Simply opening the windows in a home may not be enough, and many radon remedies require the skilled services of professional contractors who are experienced in radon reduction procedures. Homes can be fixed, but some instances may be best left to the professionals.
One of the most popular methods of reducing radon concentrations involves a process called active soil depressurization, or ASD. This is a cost-effective and reliable technique to reduce radon that involves capturing the radon from beneath a building before it can enter the dwelling. A venting system draws the radon gas from the soil beneath the foundation and exhausts it outside of the building — far away from windows and other home openings. A continuously operating fan draws and discharges the radon outdoors.
Radon that has infiltrated water supplies may require other removal methods. Such methods may require spraying water into a contained air space, introducing air bubbles into the water or storing water in a tank until the radon has decayed. Another method employs granular activated carbon (GAC) to remove radon from the water. The GAC method has been more widely tested and is more commonly used in individual homes, according to the EPA.
Because radon removal often requires a specific skill set, it is a job better left to professionals. Opening windows and allowing natural ventilation may help, but a more long-term approach to radon removal might be most appropriate.