Detecting Elevated Radon Levels
Radon gas is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that can pose a serious health risk if it becomes trapped under your house. Radon typically enters the home via underground crawl spaces, sump pumps, gaps in the basement and even the water supply. It can pollute your indoor air with its toxic vapors, and is held responsible for more than 20,000 lung-disease-related deaths every year. Radon is assumed to be present in millions of American homes.
How do you detect the presence of radon gas, and how can you reduce its presence and influence if it is found in your home? First, have your home tested by a professional. Many contractors are licensed or certified by state and/or local agencies. They will conduct diagnostic testing to determine if radon gas is at acceptable levels. If levels are dangerous, the contractor can install a radon reduction system. Ask the contractor for references documenting the results of past work in other homes. Make sure the company checks the house after the system is installed, to verify that it is reducing the radon levels.
Reducing Indoor Air Pollution
Air pollution is a fact of life in the 21st century. Reducing our use of pollutants will improve the environment and the health of those who live on our planet. But what about indoor air pollutants? The air quality inside your home affects you too, especially since most people spend more time indoors than outdoors.
Indoor air pollutants include elemental particles and gases produced by wood smoke and propane gas ranges. Some building materials, home furnishings and cleaning products emit toxic organic chemicals like formaldehyde that can contribute to poor indoor air quality. Outdoor pollutants such as radon gas from the soil under your home, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide from the vehicles that drive by or pesticides from your neighbor's orchard can also seep inside your house.
How can you reduce the risk of negative health effects from indoor air pollution? First, check the contents of the household products you use, and always open the windows if there are warnings about fumes. You can buy a relatively inexpensive detector for indoor toxic emissions at your local hardware store. If air exchange is poor inside your home, consider installing a mechanical ventilation system that will maintain a healthy flow of air and filter out pollutants.
When you are involved in the process of buying a home, it is safe to assume that you will probably find one that you like, make an offer, and purchase it. There are many steps along the way, and more and more buyers in the market today want guarantees. Inspections by structural engineers and environmental specialists often turn up something wrong with the property you want to buy. Many sales have been halted or delayed because asbestos, lead, or radon was found on the property.
Those Radon Blues
Radon gas can be a worry for homeowners. This naturally occurring substance has been found in homes throughout the country. It is odorless, colorless and undetectable without sophisticated testing. Radon has been linked to many diseases, and environmental experts caution that it should be tested. Remember that if radon gas is detected, it can usually be removed at a relatively low cost with simple ventilation systems.
If you are concerned about radon in your home, you can have it tested. You can contact your nearest branch of the Environmental Protection Agency for information about how to find a reputable company qualified to perform the tests. If you are buying a new home in an area where radon has been a problem, you might consider including a radon test as part of the structural contingency clause. And if you are planning to sell your home, you can test it for radon before placing it on the market. If there is no problem, your fears will be put to rest, and even if radon is detected, it is neither difficult nor costly to correct.