When testing for radon, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you start with the lowest level of your home where you and your family spend time. For many Americans, this is the basement.
All homes should be tested for radon every two years, but If you’ve converted your basement into a bedroom, game room, home gym, or office—or if anyone in your family spends a lot of time there—It’s even more important. If the test reveals your basement radon levels are 4.0 pCi/L or higher, it’s time to specialized contractor and get a radon mitigation system.
Why Check for Radon Gas in Basements?
Radon naturally occurs when uranium, an element that is found in rocks and soil, starts to decay. Radon can pass from the soil to the air in a gaseous form and enter your home. Because your basement is below ground, it’s the first room that radon gas will reach as it rises from the soil to the air. Therefore, the concentration of radon gas in your basement will likely be higher than in any other room of your house.
While limited exposure to radon gas isn’t likely to cause major health problems, long-term exposure to high levels of radon (typically defined as 4.0 pCi/L or higher) can significantly increase your risk of lung cancer. For example ,a level of 4.0pCi/L increases your risk roughly equivalent to smoking a half a pack of cigarettes a day. Even if you don’t spend much time in the basement, it is still worth checking your radon level. The amount of radon drops by about half for each floor of a building, so if, for example, you have 16.0 pCi/L in the basement, you are being exposed to about 8 pCi/L while you are on the first floor and 4 pCi/L on the second floor, where you may spend extra hours sleeping.
How Does Radon Enter the Basement?
There are many possible points where radon can enter your basement, including:
The sump pump pit
Cracks in the floor
Holes in the concrete slab
Gaps around pipes entering the foundation
Anywhere there’s a gap or opening in the basement floor, radon gas can get in. And unfortunately, sealing up cracks and holes isn’t enough: radon gas can still pass straight through concrete slabs.
How Can You Reduce Radon Gas in the Basement?
Now you know where radon comes from and why its levels may be high in your basement, but what can you do about it?
Fortunately, a good radon mitigation system can lower the radon levels in your basement. The installation process typically involves sealing any openings in your basement floor and setting up a suction-based removal system. The radon removal system will suction radon gas from the soil below the floor, pulling the gas through pipes and discharging it above the roofline, where you won’t breathe it in.
How do I test for radon?
Shown are four passive radon test kits – two test containers have bar-code labels and one test has a label on the lid that reads, “Professional Radon Test In Progress Do Not Disturb.”
To screen your home for radon, you can:
• Buy a radon test kit from a home improvement store
Hire a certified radon measurement specialist
Contact the National Radon Proficiency Program at (800) 723-6695 for a DIY free test kit