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Radon: Fact or Fiction?

By
Real Estate Agent with RE/MAX Alliance

Everything you wanted to know about Radon.  Some folks ask, What is it?  Do I really need to be concerned about it?  Well, I have come across some great information that pretty much explains the mystery about radon, and ALL Buyers and Sellers of real estate should become educated about radon. 

We know radon gas is harmful, but how does it get into our homes? Knowing this may help keep it out. That's why it's important to recognize where radon comes from.  Radon is estimated to cause many thousands of lung cancer deaths each year. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Whenever air enters a building from underneath, radon will most likely come in as well if radon is present. In the United States, radon gas in soil is the principal source of elevated radon levels in homes.

The Enemy From Below

Normally, radon travels first through the soil before entering a structure. Radon moves from its higher concentration at its source to areas of lower concentration in the soil to a point where it will be drawn in by pressure-driven transport. This process is called diffusion. Pathways in soil are created from high soil porosity, void space, fissures in underlying geology and/or preconstruction excavation. All make soil more permeable. Radon will also follow loose fill in plumbing trenches. And, although wet clays are low in permeability and can retard radon entry; dry clays crack and allow soil gas to channel up.  Frost or saturated upper soil horizon can cap the soil so the negative pressure of a building is exerted on larger areas. This is why rain can elevate levels of radon within a home.

Your house acts like a vacuum. Soil pressures, referred to as air pressure differentials, cause air from soil to be pulled through the smallest of openings in the foundation openings. Soil gas can enter any structure in contact with the ground and radon in the soil enters with it. Negative pressure causes most radon entry. Because buildings are typically at a lower pressure than the surrounding air and soil, and because it's a gas, radon is drawn into the house air. Environmental factors like rain, wind and falling barometric pressure also play a role. These cyclical changes are one of the reasons why levels of radon will vary with time.

Amounts of uranium and radium beneath a structure, diverse soil conditions, rapidly changing air pressure and temperature differentials, varying mechanical systems, different foundation types, and various potential pathways can make concentrations of radon gas vary from home to home within the same neighborhood. These are compelling reasons why the Surgeon General recommends that all homes be tested.

For more information on Radon visit the EPA Radon Website www.epa.gov/radon 

Courtesy of:  Kathy Brown, Realtor www.SellsNorthernColorado.com & Dave Tocarz, National Inspection Services www.NationalInspection.net