Radon Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive element that can be found in soil, underground water, and outdoor air. Some of the properties of this gas include being odorless, tasteless, and colorless. The concentrations vary throughout the country depending on the types of rocks that are found in the soil. Exposure over prolonged periods of time to radon decay products has been associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. (3) The EPA describes an elevated concentration as being at or above their suggested guidelines of 4 pCi / l (pico Curies per liter, used as a radiation unit of measure for radon). Exposures below this level may create a risk of lung cancer, farther reductions to lower levels may be too difficult or even impossible to achieve.
(4) Radon enters buildings through: exposed soil in crawl spaces, through cracks, openings in floors, and through below grade walls and floors. This is the primary source of elevated radon levels in buildings. (5) Outdoor air contains radon, but it is in extremely low concentrations therefore it is not a health hazard. Some wells contain water that has radon dissolved in it. This can be a hazard if the water is agitated or heated, allowing the gas to escape and elevate the levels that are in the building. (6) Health Risk The Surgeon General's office reports that indoor radon gas is a national health problem.
This gas causes thousands of deaths every year. (7) These deaths are a result of lung cancer, which is caused by the radioactive particles that make up the gas. (8) The likelihood of getting lung cancer from radon depends on: the concentration that you are exposed to, the amount of time that you are exposed, and whether you smoke or not. The radioactive particles are inhaled when we breathe, and become trapped in the lungs.
Once in the lungs they release small amounts of energy that can damage the tissue of the lungs which in turn can cause cancer. (9) Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, with smoking being number one according to the Surgeon Generals office. (10) Smoking greatly increases the risk of getting lung cancer. Non smokers are allot less likely to get lung cancer from radon than smokers. (11) Radon is a big problem because a majority of the population spends most of its time indoors. This increases the amount of time that they are exposed, and the likelihood that they will get lung cancer.
(12) Where Radon Originates Radon is created by the radioactive decay of uranium found in rocks, soil, and water. Uranium and its by products of decay, namely radon are abundant and are constantly being generated. (13) Radon is capable of easily traveling through rocks and soil. (14) The gas is also found dissolved in water, due to decay in the soil or rock below.
(15) Radon in Water The risk from radon in water is much lower than the risk from radon in air. This is because the water must be heated or agitated to release the gas. This can happen in a shower, boiling water on a stove, or by using a washing machine. Most public water supplies don't present a radon risk, this is because the water is aerated at the treatment site and the gas escapes into the atmosphere.
Most water that contains hazardous amounts of radon comes from wells. Wells should be tested for radon if the building that they are supplying contains hazardous amounts in the air. The testing procedures for water are different from those used on air. (16) Water containing radon can usually be treated. The most effective treatment is to remove radon from the water before it enters the home, this is called point of entry treatment.
Water can also be treated at the tap, this is known as point of use treatment. However this treatment is much less effective at removing the risk. (17) Radon Entry Radon travels through the ground and into the air, allowing the gas to easily enter buildings and homes. There are many ways that the gas can enter a building. Cracks in concrete slabs allow the gas to enter through the floor. The gas also enters through pores and cracks that are found in concrete foundations.
Faulty wall to floor joints also allow entry. Exposed soil creates more radon as uranium decays within the soil. A weeping drain tile that is drained to an open sump will cause radon to enter the home more easily. Loose pipe fittings will allow enough of an opening to let radon gas enter. Open tops of block walls let the gas move from the foundation and release in an open area. Also certain building materials, such as rock used in interior construction of fireplaces, will release the gas.
Domestic use of well water allows the gas to enter through showers and through agitation processes. Testing The EPA reports that radon has been found in homes all across the United States. (18) Testing is the essential key to knowing whether a home is at risk from radon. (19) To test for radon special equipment must be used. (20) There are a number of different devices for testing for radon on the market today. Some devices are known as passive devices, and require no power to operate.
They consist of charcoal canisters, alpha track devices and charcoal liquid scintillation. All of these devices are relatively simple, and can be purchased at hardware stores. These devices are exposed to air in the building for a specified length of time and then sent out to a processing laboratory for analysis. (21) Active devices are test equipment that requires power to operate.
These devices continuously monitor for radon. They do this by recording the amount of radon that is decaying in the building's air. This type of testing is more costly because it requires a professional, as well as expensive equipment. (22) Testing can either be long term or short term. Long term tests run for more than ninety days. Alpha track devices are most commonly used for this type of test.
The most common short term tests are charcoal canisters and continuous monitors. (23) Reducing Radon Levels There are a number of methods that can be used to reduce the amounts of radon that enter a building. Soil suction is one such method, it draws the radon from below the building and vents it to the atmosphere, where it is quickly diluted. Another method is active subs lab suction, this is the most common method.
It uses suction pipes that are inserted through the floor slab into the soil beneath it. These pipes use a fan to pull the gas out from below the house and up into the atmosphere. Another method is known as suction, it is the same as active subs lab suction except that it uses air currents in place of the fan. Drain tiles can be used to direct water away from the foundation.
Yet another method is sump hole suction, this method is used in basements that have sump pump. By capping the pump, it can continue to drain water and serve as a location for a radon suction device. Ventilation is another popular method of removing the gas. Sometimes just opening the basement windows is enough other times the use of a fan may be required. Sealing cracks in the foundation also helps to prevent some gas from entering and it also helps reduce the loss of heated or cooled air. Another type of ventilation is heat recovery ventilation, it will increase the air circulation and will use heated or cooled air that is being exhausted to warm or cool the incoming fresh air.
(24) Conclusion In conclusion, radon causes many problems. According to the surgeon general's office it is the second leading cause of cancer. (25) This is due to the radioactive particles decaying in the lungs and releasing energy that can cause tissue destruction that leads to cancer. Radon is found almost everywhere.
So it must be dealt with. Some common ways are to reduce the amounts of the gas that enter the home are sealing cracks and ventilating the building. Due to the gas being colorless and odorless special testing equipment was designed to monitor it. This testing should be done by homeowners and business owners that are concerned about the safety of inhabitants. Through testing and corrective measures radon can effectively be dealt with.
Citations 1. Radon Reduction in New Construction. Washington: GPO, March, 1993.2. Home Buyer's and Sellers Guide to Radon.
Washington: GPO, March, 1993.3. Murphy, James. 'The Colorless, Odorless Killer'. TIME: July, 1985: P. 72 4. ibid. P. 215. Consumers Guide to Radon Reduction. Washington: GPO, August, 1992. P. 4 6. ibid. P. 5 7.
A Guide to Radon. Murphy, James. TIME: July, 1985: P. 72 19. A Guide to Radon. A Guide to Radon. Washington: GPO, September, 19932.
Washington: GPO, August, 1992.3. Washington: GPO, March, 1993.4. Murphy, James. TIME: July, 19855. Washington: GPO, March, 1993..