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Radon Information   

      Radon is a radioactive element that is present in many homes. 

   It is produced by the natural decay of uranium, the "parent" element, which in turn produces radium, another radioactive element.  Radon gas is a "progeny", or daughter product, of radium. It is colorless and odorless, and cannot be detected without the use of specialized equipment and laboratory testing.
   Radon normally enters a home through pores and cracks in a concrete foundation, or through poorly ventilated crawlspaces, particularly those with exposed dirt floors.
      Homes built in areas with porous subsoils, such as gravel,  are particularly susceptible to radon.  This is because the porosity of the soil allows the radon to migrate upward more freely than in areas of low porosity soils, such as clay.
   Radon is measured in picocuries (pCi), and the average indoor concentration of radon is about 1.3 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air). If the concentration of radon in the home is above 4.0 pCi/L, the EPA recommends that steps be taken to reduce the concentration.

   It should be noted that nationwide, 1 in 15 homes has a concentration of radon that is higher than the EPA's "action level" of 4.0 pCi/L, and homes in certain areas of the U.S. have consistently tested out at higher concentrations than average.  In some areas of New York state for example,  nearly 50% of homes exceed the action level.       
Radon is a known carcinogen that has been proven to cause lung cancer and other ailments. 

It emits alpha radiation, which is capable of causing damage to the tissues and cells of the human body. 

   The National Academy of Sciences estimates that every year, 15,000 to 22,000 cases of lung cancer are directly attributable to radon.  Both the EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General have recommended that all homes be tested for radon.     
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If a home is found to have high levels of radon, measures can be taken to fix the problem and bring the radon levels down.  This is accomplished by employing radon mitigation techniques and equipment, such as PVC piping that is installed under the basement floor to intercept the radon gas before it enters the living space.  A fan or air pump is normally installed to actively purge the system and vent the gases safely to the outdoors.
   Additionally, if you're buying a home and you notice piping in the basement that runs under the concrete floor, or fans or pumps vented to the outdoors, you may be looking at a radon mitigation system that the home seller neglected to mention.  This situation occurs more often than you think, given the concentrations of radon in sub-soils and the anxiety of sellers created by the sub-prime lending debacle.  

WARNINGALSO NOTE: a recent study has concluded that radon gas can be emitted from various ashes, such as coal ash and wood ashes (like those in a fireplace).  Researchers report that wood grown in areas with high concentrations of radon can absorb the element, and release the radon gas when burned.  Although a significant amount of the radon is expelled with the exhaust smoke through the chimney or flue, the remaining ashes can continue to emit radon gas in concentrations exceeding .4 pCi.  Although this concentration is below the EPA action level of  4.0 pCi/L, it may combine with radon entering the living space through a basement or crawlspace and thereby exceed acceptable levels in SOME areas of the home.  I only mention this for purposes of awareness; it may be a good idea to keep any hearths, fireplaces and coal stoves cleared of wood and coal ashes.  


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