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Where does Radon come from ?
The soil. Radon is produced from the natural decay of uranium that is found
in nearly all soils. Uranium breaks down to radium. As radium disintegrates
it turns into radioactive gas...radon. As a gas, radon moves up through the soil and
into the air you breathe.
Where is your greatest exposure to radon?
While radon is present everywhere, and there is no known, safe level, your greatest exposure is where it can concentrate-indoors. And where you spend most time-at home. Your home can have radon whether it be old or new, well-sealed or drafty, and with or without a basement.
How serious a problem is radon in Minnesota?
High radon exist in every state in the US. In Minnesota, one in three homes has radon levels that pose a significant health risk, and nearly 80% of counties are rated high radon zones. Some factors that further contribute to Minnesota's high radon levels include:
Minnesota's geology produces an ongoing supply of radon.
Minnesota's climate affects how our homes are built and operate.
How does radon enter a home?
Since radon is produced from soil, it is present nearly everywhere. Because soil is porous radon gas is able to move up through the dirt and rocks and into the air we breathe. If allowed to accumulate, radon becomes a health concern.
Two components that affect how much radon will accumulate in a home are pathways and air pressure. These components will differ from home to home.
Pathways are routes the gas uses to enter your home and found anywhere there is an opening between the home and the soil.
Air pressure between your home's interior and the exterior soil is what helps to draw radon gas into the home via pathways.
Radon's Pathways into your home
A.Cracks in concrete slabs
B.Spaces behind brick veneer walls that rest on uncapped hollow-block foundations
C.Pores and cracks in concrete blocks
E.Exposed soil, as in a sump or crawl space
F.Weeping (drain) tile, if drained to an open sump
H.Loose fitting pipe penetrations
I.Open tops of block walls
J.Building materials: brick, concrete, rock
K.Well water (not commonly a major source in Minnesota homes)
Air pressures in your home
Minnesota homes commonly operate under a negative air pressure, especially during the heating season. What this means is that the air pressure inside your home is typically lower then the surrounding air and soil, and this creates a vacuum that pulls soil gases, such as radon, into the home via pathways. Even if the ground around the house is frozen or soaked by rain, the gravel and disturbed ground underneath the house remains warm and permeable, attracting radon gas from the surrounding soil.
Other factors also contribute to air pressure changes in a home, including:
Down Wind Effect
As warm air rises to the upper portions of a home, it is displaced by cooler, denser outside air. Some of that displaced air comes from the soil. Strong winds can create a vacuum as they blow over the top of the home. Combustion appliances like furnaces, hot water heaters and fireplaces, as well as exhaust fans and vents, can remove a considerable of air from a home. When air is exhausted, outside air enters the home to replace it. Some of this replacement air comes from the underlying soil.
What happens after radon gets into the home?
Radon levels are often highest at the entry point-typically in the lower part of a building. As radon gas moves upward, diffusion, natural air movements and mechanical equipment (such as forced-air ventilation system) distribute the radon through the home. Radon gas becomes more diluted in the upper levels of the home because there is more fresh air for it to mix with.
Greater dilution and less house vacuum effect occur when the house is more open to the outdoors, as during the non-heating season. This generally results in lower indoor radon levels in the summer compared to the winter.
Understanding how radon moves through the home environment helps to explain why timing and location are important factors to consider when conducting a radon test.
Three ways to protect you and your family:
1.Test your home -
2.Reduce your exposure - reduce radon gas by taking action to reduce radon entry into your home
3.Protect your loved ones - tell your family and friends to test so they are not exposed to a deadly gas in their homes.
(Source: MDH website)
Why is Radon Bad?
The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today causing over 21,000 deaths per year. At 21,000 this makes it a bigger killer than drunk driving which accounts for approximately 17,000 deaths per year. You would not let your family ride in a car with a drunk driver, so why would you let them live in a home with high levels of radon?
If you smoke you are at an even higher risk for developing lung cancer. The cumulative effects of smoking and exposure to radon will greatly increase your risk.
Unlike may other types of cancer, lung cancer has a very low survival rate. Even with todays medical technologies, only 7% of the people diagnosed with lung cancer will survive.
Many scientific studies of radon exposure indicate that children may be more sensitive to radon. This may be due to their higher respiration rate and their rapidly dividing cells, which may be more vulnerable to radiation damage.
Myths about Radon
Myth: Radon testing is difficult, expensive and time consuming.
Fact: Testing is easy. You can test your home using a test kit from your local hardware store or from our distributor Aircheck. The kits typically cost about $15 and takes just a few minutes to set up. At the end of the test it takes only a couple of more minutes to take it down and send in. These test also include shipping charges and lab fees, which are generally not included with the box store tests. These test kits have great results when used properly. If you need the test done in as little as 48 hours because of a real estate transaction, you can also hire a certified radon testing company.
Myth: Short term tests are not sufficient for making a decision whether or not to fix your home.
Fact: Short term tests can be used to decide whether or not to fix your home, provided the test were done according to the EPAs testing protocol. However, your radon levels may vary slightly at different times of the year. Winter time can produce higher rates than summer, because your house it kept closed more of the time.
Myth: Radon affects only certain types of homes.
Fact: Radon can be a problem in any type of home: new or old, with or without a basement, drafty or insulated. The presence of small deposits of uranium in the soil is the largest factor that affects radon levels in your home. Some newer homes may be built with passive radon resistant features but even these homes should be tested to see if the system should be activated
Myth: A neighbors test result is a good indication of radon levels in your home.
Fact: Radon levels can vary greatly from house to house. The only way to know if you have high levels of radon in your home is to test.
Myth: Homes with radon problems cannot be fixed or are very expensive to fix.
Fact: Fixing radon may be cheaper and easier than you may think. Hundreds of thousands of homes have been fix and the process typically only takes a day to complete at a cost of about $1200 to $1800.
Myth: It is difficult to sell a home where high levels of radon have been found.
Fact: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked or delayed. The added feature of a radon reduction system is often a good selling feature.