Guides

Radon Exposure Symptoms, Testing and Mitigation

Radon Exposure Symptoms, Testing and Mitigation

Radon can be present in any home regardless of when it was constructed or how much it cost. Tests are cheap and Radon’s effects can be devastating. If you haven’t tested your home do so as soon as possible.

It seems like almost everyone deals with cancer these days. Unfortunately, many of us have either experienced cancer first hand or know someone who has. With cancer awareness at an all time high, toxic elements like radon are growing in the public consciousness. 

While many pollutants are easy to trace to industry and dense population centers, radon gas can appear in any home. No matter how remote you are, or how fresh you air seems, you could be breathing in poison. It’s totally undetectable to human senses, and inspectors need special equipment to even know if it’s present.  Radon is the boogey man of the home inspection world.

What Exactly is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas generated by the breakdown of uranium deep beneath the Earth’s surface. Although it’s most often found in igneous rocks and soil, it can also contaminate well water. Since radon is tasteless, colorless, and odorless, it’s impossible to discover without testing.

Just because you don’t know it’s there, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t a threat. Radon can seriously affect your health, and various forms of cancer have been linked to radon gas. Catching radon contamination early is literally a matter of life and death.

Radon Exposure Symptoms

The first step to addressing a radon problem is to acknowledge that it’s potentially there. While many new homeowners test for radon gas before making the final purchase of new property, many others only discover radon once certain symptoms manifest. It’s important to pay attention to your lungs. Your upper respiratory tract will give you the first warning signs of radon contamination.

Upper respiratory symptoms include a persistent cough that just won’t go away. Trouble breathing, wheezing, and hoarseness are also common symptoms. If you experience chest pains, or you cough up blood, you should see your doctor immediately. These symptoms may be evidence of more serious conditions brought on by radon. Lung cancer is often associated with radon exposure, and none of these symptoms should be taken lightly. Even if your doctor can identify your illness, a recurring infection like bronchitis or pneumonia may indicate serious problems.

Your pets may alert you to problems as well. In addition to respiratory problems similar to what their owners may develop, pets like dogs and cats will show more symptoms earlier on. These include a distinct loss of appetite that may escalate to anorexia. Cancer often appears in pets, too, which can manifest as lumps, masses on the skin, or even lameness.

Radon Testing

First alert radon test kit - dont wait for radon exposure symptons to set in

Buy Your Test Kit on Amazon.com

There’s a range of testing devices available to detect and measure radon, and some are available for private use. Home inspectors enjoy a greater range of tests. Their training and budget gives them a chance to use CRMs (Continuous Radon Monitors) and electrets. CRMs are most often used by home inspectors to ensure a home is clear of radon before the new owners sign the final contract. Electrets are slightly less common. Both of these methods require some degree of formal training to use properly. The equipment involved is typically well out of the average homeowner’s price range, too.

Fortunately, the most popular radon tests only require a careful reading of the instructions. They also cost a fraction of the price professional inspectors spend on their equipment. All of these do-it-yourself tests are what the industry refers to as passive tests. This essentially means the tests sit still and passively collect a sample of your air. Activated charcoal kits use the same materials you will find in many air purifiers to catch radon particles as they pass through your home. Alpha track devices use a similar process but utilize a piece of plastic that is marked by radon instead.

Order an Accustar 2 Pack Test kit on Amazon.com

In both of these devices, users simply set up their tests, allow them to collect an air sample for a specified length of time, and then send the test to a lab. The cost of shipping, along with shipping materials, is essentially always covered by the cost of the original test kit. The only downside to this system is the time it takes for passive devices to collect their samples. Some need up to a year in order to get the best sample, and that doesn’t even include the processing time once it ships out to the lab.

Mitigation

The first thing you need to know about radon mitigation is that air purifiers won’t help you. Someday, we may have the technology to trap or eliminate radon gas, but at present, even the best HEPA and activated carbon filters cannot protect you. From time to time, an air purifier will claim to help mitigate radon gas, but this should be a red flag about the validity of the manufacturer’s claims.

RELATED: How do Activated Carbon Filters Work

Radon gas requires special mitigation to help clear the air inside a home. Sub-slab depressurization is a very popular method. Since radon gas comes from the ground beneath a home, this system uses vents, pipes, and fans to pump the toxic gas out from beneath the home and out into the general environment. Once away from the home, it can disperse safely. Radon really only becomes dangerous when it builds up inside a home. Getting rid of the radon before it enters the home is the best way to mitigate the risk.

Homes may also have existing radon in the cavities of their home, especially in the spaces between walls. Removing radon from these areas is much trickier, and many different systems try to address this issue. Since vents need to be sealed and air-proofed, and many systems utilize a heat exchanger, homes in warmer climates may end up trading radon problems for mold. These systems only work in homes with drywall, too, which leaves older structures off the table.

What should you do if you find Radon?

The best way to mitigate radon is to take care of it at its source. Once you’ve used a professional service or completed a do-it-yourself test, you should begin by addressing the long-term concern. Preventing more radon from getting into your home should be a priority. It might be a difficult undertaking, depending on your budget and the building materials used in your home. But, it is incredibly important to your health.

If you haven’t tested for radon, you should. You’ll breathe easier knowing the invisible poison isn’t continuing to build up inside your home. Don’t wait for Radon exposure symptoms to test.

Share this Story
Load More Related Articles
Load More By Mindy
Load More In Guides