We often get the question ‘where does radon come from?’ after our testing uncovers elevated readings on a property. This is a very good question. After all, by knowing where it comes from, we have a better understanding of how to get rid of it.
The EPA provides an excellent answer:
“Radon comes from the breakdown of naturally-occurring radioactive elements (such as uranium and thorium) in soils and rocks. As part of the radioactive decay process, radon gas is produced. The gas moves up through the soil to the surface, where it can enter homes, schools and the workplace through cracks and other holes in the foundation. In some cases, radon can enter buildings through well water and come from building materials. Any home can have a radon problem – old or new homes, well-sealed or drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.”
In short, radon is part of the radioactive decay chain of uranium and thorium buried under the ground. It cannot be detected through any of your senses. You can’t smell, feel, or taste it. It certainly is not visible. So how do you know if you have it?
The key to the answer is – testing! Radon is a dangerous gas that can increase your chances of getting lung cancer. Radon levels can vary from day to day and season to season. By testing for the gas, you can know for certain if the levels in your home or business are elevated.
By understanding where radon comes from, we can have a better understanding on how to get rid of it. EPA studies show that radon levels “depend on soil chemistry, which vary from one house to the next”. High uranium levels under your neighbor’s home does not necessarily guarantee your home will have the same elevated levels. Conversely, if your neighbor’s house is tested for radon and the readings are low, this does not mean your house will be low as well. It all depends where the uranium is located.
The EPA at one time tried to develop a map to show areas that had high concentrations of radon, but this can prove to be highly misleading. Again, testing by a radon professional will give you the peace of mind that the air you are breathing in your home, workplace or school is safe and healthy.
Fortunately, when elevated radon levels are found, the fix is relatively easy. A radon mitigation system will divert the gas away from the interior of your home and send it through an exterior pipe to the outdoors where it will dissipate into the ambient air.
If you happen to notice that some of your neighbors have radon mitigation systems installed, I highly recommend getting a test right away. Seeing that a neighbor’s home has a radon mitigation system installed does not guarantee that you have elevated radon, but it certainly does increase the probability. Get your property tested!