The results are in: Radon gas testing is a matter of life and death.
Colorless, odorless, and radioactive, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The first, predictably, is smoking. Smokers who are exposed to radon above acceptable levels are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer.
To put it in context, about 135,000 deaths from lung cancer are smoking related. About 21,000 deaths from lung cancer each year are radon related. Most radon-related deaths are also smoking related. Nonsmokers may account for more than 10 percent of radon-related cancer deaths.
Shocking, isn’t it? What’s more, as a population, we’re not taking the problem seriously.
What Is Radon Gas?
Radon is one of the six noble gases on the periodic table. Released by the decay of uranium, it occurs naturally in soil and rocks. Outside, it’s no problem. The trouble starts when it accumulates indoors.
Its single-atom structure helps it penetrate building materials, including sheetrock, concrete block, mortar, and more. The gas can also seep into a home through foundation cracks, openings at entry points for pipes or sump pumps, or other construction gaps and flaws. Newer homes are particularly vulnerable, because they're too well insulated for the gas to escape. Radon is nine times heavier than air. It doesn’t exit a building quickly.
Radon in Santa Cruz County
According to the California Department of Public Health, most of south Santa Cruz County rates low potential for radon. North Santa Cruz County rates from moderate to high. However, radon levels vary from house to house. Testing is the only way to know if you’re affected.
Testing, One, Two, Three…
Radon test kits are sold at hardware stores. Short-term tests take about two days to complete. You then return the kit to the manufacturer, and wait around three days for the results. Short-term tests, however, aren’t very accurate. Radon levels vary from day to day. If a short term test reveals a problem, or if you’re planning to sell, a long-term test is appropriate.
The Environmental Protection Agency recommends fixing a house with levels at or above 4.0 pCi/L. If your home tests in that range, you can install a mitigation system yourself, or contact a certified professional. It’s illegal to offer radon mitigation in California without certification. Find a list of certified providers here.
The good news is mitigation is both effective and reasonably priced. Professionals use one of three methods:
- Action sub-slab suction involves inserting suction pipes through or below the concrete foundation slab.
- Sub-membrane suction is used in homes with crawlspaces. A plastic covers the earth below the house, and a fan and pipe vent the gas outside.
- Active crawlspace depressurization is an alternative to sub-membrane suction. A fan draws air from the crawlspace.
Do you know the radon levels in your home? We’re here to help. Call us at (831)818-4321 or contact us here.