January is National Radon Action Month. If your home tests positive for radon gas, radon mitigation is critical to removing the radon gas and protecting the health of your family. Radon gas is a natural phenomenon and common around the country, but it can cause lung cancer if it remains trapped in a living space. Radon mitigation is the process needed to vent radon gas from the home, before the radon has a chance to build up to harmful levels.

Home construction techniques of the last 20 years have led to tighter, more energy-efficient homes. Unfortunately, these tighter homes also have the ability to hold more radon gas indoors. Therefore, it’s important to find out if radon in your home through radon detection. If so, then install a radon mitigation system to have it safely removed.

What is radon?

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that occurs naturally when radium decays in the soil. From there, the gas can move up through the ground and into your home via cracks and holes in its foundation, collecting in enclosed spaces like basements or ground-floor living areas. Without radon testing and proper radon mitigation, radon exposure is extremely dangerous, and according to EPA estimates radon gas is the number-one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and second leading cause of lung cancer overall.

The good news is that radon testing and radon mitigation are possible to accomplish without a lot of expense. A properly designed and installed radon mitigation system can bring down very high levels of radon gas just as soon as the radon mitigation system is turned on for the very first time.

Radon testing

There are simple, affordable radon detection methods available for your home that will determine whether radon mitigation is necessary. Basic radon testing involves a charcoal adsorption canister, which is placed in the basement or lowest living area of your home for two to seven days. This canister adsorbs the radon gas and is sent to a radon lab for processing, with the results mailed back to you. A do-it-yourself radon test kit costs around $15 or you can have the radon test performed by a pro for about $100. Either way, plan on doing the radon test at a time when your whole home will remain closed except for standard exits and entries, as air circulation and escape will impact the accuracy of your radon test results.

Once the radon testing period is over and the adsorption canister sent to a lab for evaluation, the lab’s report will dictate the actual radon gas level found in your home. The results are reported in picoCuries per liter of air (pCi/L), and if your result is 4 pCi/L or above, you’ll need to have a radon mitigation system installed.

Radon mitigation systems

A soil suction radon mitigation system is the most common solution. This type of radon mitigation system involves installation of a vent pipe under the lowest level floor (typically a concrete basement floor). Then, a specially designed radon mitigation fan works to pull the radon gas from the soil beneath the house and vent it safely to the outside, usually above the roof where it can’t reenter the structure. Sealing cracks in your home’s foundation will make the system even more efficient. For best results, radon mitigation should be done only by a certified radon mitigation contractor who is insured and licensed, where required, by your county or state health department.

Most importantly, after the radon mitigation system is installed, it's very important to get a second radon gas test done. Only by testing after the radon mitigation system is installed, can you be sure the radon mitigation system was properly designed and installed.

For more information on radon mitigation and radon detection, as well as the health threats associated with radon gas, visit www.epa.gov/radon. For images of a radon mitigation systems, see radon mitigation page at the University of Illinois Extension web site on radon mitigation.

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