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Radon gas emanates from soil and rock everywhere on earth. Radon is invisible, odorless and naturally radioactive. Outdoors, radon diffuses harmlessly into the atmosphere. But indoors, radon that enters a building through the foundation can accumulate in hazardous levels, altering the cell structure of building inhabitants and causing cancer. In the U.S., radon exposure causes around 21,000 deaths every year, most of them due to lung cancer.
Because radon is a carcinogen, the only truly safe level of radon exposure is zero. However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a recommended or acceptable maximum exposure level of 4 picocuries per liter of interior air (4 pCi/L). This radon level is also sometimes referred to as the “action” or “actionable” level of radon exposure. In other words, if a radon test shows an exposure level above 4 pCi/L, the EPA recommends that a radon mitigation system be installed to bring radon exposure level below the 4 pCi/L threshold. The World Health Organization has a lower “actionable” radon level of 2.7 pCi/L.
Every house should be tested for radon. Because soil conditions can vary greatly even within a small geographic area, radon levels in neighboring houses don’t necessarily predict what your home’s radon level will be. It’s not difficult or expensive to have a radon test conducted in your home. DIY test kits are available at hardware stores, home centers and even some municipal health organizations. It’s also possible to have a radon test performed by a licensed radon mitigation contractor.
Don’t panic if a radon test shows high levels of radon exposure. There are proven techniques for reducing radon levels so that exposure can be brought into the acceptable range. A licensed radon mitigation or abatement contractor will be able to install an abatement system that exhausts radon-laden air to the exterior before it can accumulate in indoors.