Radon Abatement: Removing Radioactive Gas From Your Home

High levels of radioactive gas may be in up to 25 percent of all U.S. homes, the article includes where does radon come from, levels of radon in the home, and Radon abatement techniques.

| September/October 1987


Block wall ventilation with plenum.


The need for radon abatement is rising. Up to 25% of all U.S. homes may have hazardous levels of radioactive gas. 

Radon Abatement: Removing Radioactive Gas From Your Home

You're breathing it right now. Radon, an invisible, odorless, radioactive gas, is present everywhere in our atmosphere. A natural product of the breakdown of uranium, radon emanates from rock and soil but is usually so diluted by air that it poses a minimal health risk. Problems arise when humans construct radon traps — buildings — and then live in them.

Houses with dangerously high radon levels have been found in all 50 states. There's no question that some regions are more prone to radon problems than others, but no area is immune. And even the fact that a neighbor's home with similar construction has been tested and found to be safe is no guarantee that yours will receive a similar report.

As many as 10 million U.S. residences may have significant radon contamination, and there is now nearly universal agreement among experts for radon abatement and that all homes should be tested. If you haven't yet had your home examined for radon, you should choose a company to remove this dangerous gas.

Finding that your home does have a radon problem is no cause for panic. But, depending on the concentration, it may call for prompt action. First, retest thoroughly. Use multiple detectors — both carbon and alpha track — and place them so as to get a better idea of where the concentrations are highest in your house. Your state radiation protection agency or the commercial tester may provide information or assistance in proper screening. If the problem is confirmed, it's time to get to work.

How Bad are the Levels of Radon in My Home?

The results of radon tests are usually expressed in units called picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). Without getting into the physics of radiation, that means that there are about two radioactive disintegrations of radon 222 in each liter (9/10 quart) of air every minute. As you can see, this has nothing directly to do with alpha particles bombarding lung tissues and causing mutations. However, through a complicated (and still controversial) process, health physicists can relate units of radioactivity to health risk.

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