Radon in Avon Lake - What's the Risk and What Can You Do About It?
The area of Avon Lake, due to local geology, has a significant risk to radon exposure. You should be aware of the hazard and know when and how to take steps to mitigate the problem.
What is Radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas resulting from other elements, such as uranium, that are undergoing radioactive decay within the earth. As a result, radon gas is constantly released to the environment, and we’re stuck with this consequence. Fortunately, it normally has a low concentration in ambient air. But there are conditions in which the concentration can rise, and this poses a risk for any breathing animal.
Why Should We Care?
Radon emits particles that are known to cause cancer. The primary risk to us is through inhalation. Smoking significantly increases this risk.
How Are We Exposed?
Radon, constantly created within the Earth, is always seeping from underground. However, the emission is slow, and natural air currents keep concentrations low. It diffuses readily through porous materials. Non-porous substances, such as slate found in Lake Erie, block this natural escape from subterranean sources, causing the gas to concentrate in areas where it can find an outlet, such as the surrounding inland areas. This explains why Avon Lake residents are more susceptible to the risk.
Buildings built on slab construction have a similar, albeit smaller, effect. Foundation and slab openings of any kind serve as funnels for radon to enter the home. Because our homes and offices are built to minimize air leakage and be thermally efficient, once entered, concentrations of radon, heavier than air, rise to unsafe levels.
Radon is relatively soluble in water and may be a concern if the water source is a deep well, which increases the amount of dissolved gas. However, the risk is low if the water source is near ground level such as water provided by Avon Lake Municipal Utilities. If your water comes from a well, it would be prudent to test it. Major risks are ingestion or inhalation while showering.
Do You Have a Problem?
The only way to determine if you are at risk is to test. The EPA has established guidelines for homeowners to use to decide if they need to take action. Natural ambient air contains approximately 0.4 pico curries of radon per liter of air (pCi/L).
The EPA has recommended the following acceptable or not acceptable limits:
- Acceptable - 2 pCi/L or less
- Remediation recommended – above 2 pCi/L but less than 4 pCi/L
- Remediation required – 4 pCi/L and greater
Note, if there are smokers on the premises, you should be more concerned and use the above numbers conservatively.
Testing to determine whether you have a problem or not is done on the air in your home at the lowest occupied level, often a basement to be conservative.
There are two general categories of testing:
Short-term testing is done over a period of at least two and up to 90 days. Test kits for short-term testing can be purchased on-line or at building supply stores for $20 or less.
Long-term testing lasts more than 90 days. It is the more expensive alternative, but it is considered to be more accurate. It should be done by a qualified technician. Many home inspectors are certified for this work.
The recommended approach is to initially do a short-term test. If levels measured are 4 pCi/L or greater, then do another short-term test to confirm. If levels measured are still above 4 pCi/L , then install a remediation system.
If measurement from either test is 2-4 pCi/L , then a long term test is warranted to more accurately define the average concentration. Many would argue that remediation is prudent if the average is above 2 pCi/L.
If your first short-term test is less than 2 pCi/L, consider doing a long-term test before concluding you have negligible risk.
Remediation is simply exhausting the air from the major penetration in the slab, typically at the sump pump. A 4” pipe is connected to the sump cover, piped to an in-line fan, and routed to several feet above the roof. There are contractors who specialize in these systems that you should use.