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Radon in Water

Well, well, well, if it isn’t radon in water!

Most people who have heard of indoor radon probably know that it comes from the ground. Radon is a radioactive decay product of uranium, which exists in the soil in countless counties across the U.S. Radon gas enters through the tiniest cracks in a house’s foundation, and can accumulate to high levels in the home, especially in the lowest levels. However, there is another common way for radon to enter the home: through the water supply.

Why is radon in water a problem?

Radon can get into the water supply by seeping into the water from the ground. This generally occurs in underground water supplies, such as wells. The radon can then leave the water and enter the air inside the home through water vapor. This is most frequently seen in rooms such as the bathroom and kitchen, where there tends to be water running frequently. If the radon levels in the water are high enough, it can cause higher levels to accumulate in the home and can pose a danger to the occupants. While the radon that escapes into the air is the primary danger, the radon remaining in the water can cause problems as well. Evidence has shown that radon in drinking water can pose a risk for developing stomach cancer.

How do you identify an issue?

Since radon in water issues are most commonly seen in homes that use well water, that is the main risk factor. Radon in Water tests can be performed to know how much radon is in the water supply.  High radon levels in rooms with heavy water use give an indication that there might be high levels of radon in the water. Test kits for both air and water can be found at https://www.radon.com/.

What is the best solution to radon in water?

Just as there are ways to mitigate radon coming through the ground and into your home, there are ways to remove radon in water. The best method of removal is aeration, which bubbles the water, releasing the radon gas into water vapor, and then safely vents the gas into the outside air above the roof. This process also removes other contaminants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs). To find a professional to handle your radon in water aeration needs, visit https://www.radonaway.com/radon-mitigator-referral-form.php.

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A Brief History of Radon

Initial Discovery

Most people have heard of Marie Curie, a scientist known for her work with radioactivity, and the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She and her husband Pierre Curie discovered radium, a decay product of uranium, in 1898. Two years later, German scientist Freidrich Ernst Dorn discovered a gaseous decay product emanating from radium, which he creatively referred to as “radium emanation”. In 1908, English scientists William Ramsey and Robert Whytlaw-Gray worked with radium emanation and found that it was the heaviest known gas. They called it “niton”, from the Greek word for “shining”. The final term “radon” has been used to refer to the element since 1923.

Link to Lung Cancer

The first indication that radon might play a part in lung cancer came from uranium miners. These miners were developing lung cancer at higher-than-average rates. After many studies accounting for other variables, it became clear that the cause was the radon they were exposed to in the mines.

Residential Radon

After radon had been linked to cancer, there was little initial concern for anyone who did not work in mines. This changed when Stanley Watras, who worked  at a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, set off the alarm on a radiation monitor. One might think that this would be an obvious indication of nuclear radiation, but Watras was working on the construction of the plant, and there was no nuclear fuel present at the time. After investigation at Watras’s home, it was discovered that radiation was present at levels of 2,700 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). Ultimately, radon was found to be the source of the radiation. For reference, the current recommended level at which action should be taken to lower radon levels is set at 4pCi/L by the US EPA, meaning Watras’s home had almost 700 times the “safe” level of radon. This event launched further study into residential radon, which eventually spurred the creation of the Radon Gas and Indoor Air Quality Research Act of 1986.

Present Day

With our current understanding of radon, we know that it is the second leading cause of lung cancer (second only to smoking), and the first leading cause in nonsmokers. Cigarette smoke and radon work synergistically to have a greater increase on lung cancer risk than just the combination of each individual risk, so radon poses a great threat to smokers. Radon is responsible for an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the US each year.

There are multiple faces of radon, people affected by radon-induced lung cancer who have made it their mission to spread awareness of the dangerous carcinogen. One “face of radon” was  Elizabeth (Liz) Hoffmann, founder and first president of Cancer Survivors Against Radon (CanSAR), a never-smoker diagnosed with lung cancer at age 37.  Liz succumbed to the disease after a 10-year fight during which she testified before Congress and several state legislatures, raising radon awareness and resulting in radon remaining in the EPA budget. Her appearances also helped to get awareness bills passed in Illinois and Minnesota. Another “face of radon” is current CanSAR president Rachael Malmberg, an athlete and never-smoker diagnosed with lung cancer at age 32. She is an outspoken advocate for radon testing, and her story has been featured on FOX and other news outlets.

We encourage everyone to join dedicated people like Liz and Rachael to help raise awareness of radon risk, encourage radon testing, and urge legislators to pass Radon Awareness Acts similar to those in Illinois and Minnesota. Also, take a moment to go to cansar.org to support Liz’s Law (radon awareness act). You can find more information about radon at: https://www.radonaway.com/radon-faq-homeowners.php

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Radon and Pets: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Furry Friends.

Most people have heard the phrase “If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer.” Many also know about radon, the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer in the US. Every year in January, which is Radon Action Month, the news media feature reports and articles encouraging people to test their homes to keep themselves and their families safe from this deadly gas. We also see more and more efforts encouraging radon testing in schools, as high radon levels have been detected in classrooms throughout the country, putting school children and staff members in danger. What gets less attention, however, is the effect of radon on animals. Most pet owners would consider their pets to be part of the family, and their lungs also need to be protected from radon.

Pet Statistics

According to a 2017 survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 68% of American households have a pet. APPA also calculated that over 69 billion dollars were spent on pets in 2017. These numbers show that pets are members of the majority of families in the U.S., and a lot of money is spent keeping them happy and healthy. Radon testing is a worthwhile step toward that cause, and benefits not just pets but all members of the family.

Radon’s Effect on Animals

Just like humans, animals are affected by environmental pollutants. High levels of radon in the home can be especially dangerous for pets because they tend to spend more time inside than their owners. Radon can cause tumors in the lungs and respiratory tracts of animals.

An article by Cancer Survivors Against Radon (CanSAR) describes a pet owner, Susan McCormick, who was diagnosed with lung cancer. When her dog also received a cancer diagnosis, she ended up testing her home, and found a level 5x higher than the EPA recommended action level.

One of RadonAway’s founders, Howie Zidel, had a memorable radon mitigation he performed due to a pet. “One of the first houses I ever mitigated was because a woman’s pet bunny who lived in the basement died of lung cancer. True story. She was a dental technician and had her house tested for Radon.” It is unfortunate that the death of a well-loved pet had to be the indicator of high radon levels in her home.

By taking proactive measures and testing your home, radon problems can be found and addressed before you or any member of your family, including pets, fall victim to radon-induced lung cancer.

Radon testing kits are available to purchase at: https://www.radon.com/ordernow/

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Radon: An Invisible Danger Lurking In Schools

Every parent wants their child’s school environment to be safe and comfortable.  But is it?  Some common concerns parents may have include bullying, school security, or air and water quality. However, when parents think about air quality, they seldom think “radon”.  Radon can’t be seen, smelled, or heard, so it often falls into the “out of sight, out of mind” category. However, this dangerous radioactive gas can lead to lung cancer, and can be especially harmful to children.

Due to the shape and size of children’s lungs, their breathing rate is higher than an average adult’s.  On top of that, their lungs are still developing.  This is a risky combination when it comes to radon, since they are breathing this harmful gas at a quicker rate, giving it a greater effect on their growing lungs.

If a parent heard that their child was being exposed to harmful radiation at school, they would likely want to take action to protect their child.  However, many people don’t react this way when hearing the word “radon”.  This is likely due to lack of awareness of its dangers, and the fact that symptoms don’t appear immediately as they do with, say, nuclear radiation.  Though the damage takes longer to present itself, radon is a hazardous carcinogen that can lead to lung cancer, the #1 cancer killer in the U.S.

According to the U.S. EPA, “A nationwide survey of radon levels in schools estimates that nearly one in five has at least one schoolroom with a short-term radon level above the action level of 4 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter) – the level at which EPA recommends that schools take action to reduce the level.”  While some states and counties have laws regarding radon in schools, most do not.

So what can YOU do to protect your kids and the kids in your community? Contact your state and county officials and ask about policies on radon in schools.  If officials see that this is an issue taxpayers care about, they will be more likely to act. Every parent deserves to have peace of mind that their children are safe when they go to school, so make sure your local schools take radon seriously.

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Spring Cleaning Tips: Clean Your Indoor Air & Test Your Home for Radon

The spring season is finally upon us and with it comes an annual tradition for many – spring cleaning.  It’s the perfect time to open windows, let the warmer air in, and tidy up your home. Although we conduct a thorough cleaning of the objects in our home, how many of us actually make sure the air within it is clean and safe? Did you know that, according to the World Health Organization, 4.3 million people a year die from the exposure to household air pollution? Below are a few simple spring cleaning tips for healthier days ahead.

Dust collects on everything and with our busy schedules, it can be challenging to remember to dust and wash all surfaces.  It doesn’t take long for dust mites, dirt, debris, and pet hair and dander to build up and float around the air. Mix those ingredients with people who suffer from common ailments such as allergies, asthma, and sinus issues, and it’s a recipe for disaster.  There is a simple remedy.  A robust air purifier, such as HealthWay’s Air Purifier Deluxe, is an inexpensive solution to guarantee your home’s air quality is fresh and clean, year-round.  With its state of the art Disinfecting Filtration System (DFS) Technology, HealthWay’s Air Purifier Deluxe captures 99.99% of ultrafine particles including harmful viruses, mold, and bacteria.  It’s the best around – currently used in hospitals, military and government applications, as well as popular hotels (Hilton, Hyatt).  We’re sure your home will approve.

Dusting your bathroom fans and checking air filters are pretty easy to do and also help maintain a healthy living space.  Remember to check bathroom fans for dampness or signs of water leaks.  If you detect any traces of water, address the problem quickly to avoid harmful mold and mildew from growing. Dust and debris can build up on air filters over time, so changing them often is best.

The last and most important tip is to make sure your family is safe from hazardous gases within your home. You have a carbon monoxide detector, right?  Well it’s equally important to test your home for radon gas.  Radon is a colorless, odorless, lethal gas that causes lung cancer and kills 21,000 people in the United States alone each year.  Protect your family by testing your home for radon.  To find a Radon Professional in your area for radon testing or radon mitigation needs, please use our Find a Radon Professional Online Tool.

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The 4 Rs for Homeowners: Restoration, Renovation, Remodeling and Radon

Home renovation and remodeling projects, many times initiated by choice not necessity, are often started in the spring. Restorations frequently are urgent and necessary due to damage from water, fire or mold or structural issues. These 3 Rs all have another R in common, Radon. Whatever the reason for a major home improvement project, when planning a home renovation, remodeling or restoration it’s time to test for radon.

Test Before Your Home Project

According to the EPA, “If you are planning any major structural renovation, such as converting an unfinished basement area into living space, it is especially important to test the area for radon before you begin the renovation. If your test results indicate a radon problem, radon-resistant (often called radon ready new construction or RRNC) techniques can be inexpensively included as part of the renovation.”

You can perform the radon test yourself  or find a radon testing professional. Regardless of the test result, some experts recommend installing a RRNC system as a prevention measure (and because you can take advantage of the cost savings).

Test After Your Home Project

Even if you tested your home prior to your home improvement or restoration project and the radon test result was below the 4.0 pCi/L  level at which the EPA recommends fixing, you will want to test again because the work done in your home might have changed factors that could affect radon levels.

If you had a RRNC system installed during the project, you will want to test again to make sure the radon has been reduced to below the recommended 4.0 pCi/L level.

 

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January is National Radon Action Month (NRAM)

January is National Radon Action Month! Let’s take action together to save lives.

For Homeowners: Learn More About Radon

Radon comes from uranium in rocks and soil. In a natural radioactive decay process, the breakdown of uranium produces radium and then radon gas which contains radioactive particles.  When the radon gas is inhaled, the radioactive particles can cause changes in the lung tissue and DNA. Over time, this can lead to lung cancer. Radon typically enters from beneath the house, with the highest radon levels accumulating in crawlspaces and basements. The EPA, the U.S. Surgeon General, and other environmental and health agencies and organizations encourage all Americans to test their homes, schools and other buildings for radon. Radon-induced lung cancer is preventable, but we must take action.

How You Can Take Action Against Radon

During National Radon Action Month (NRAM) you can take action:

  • Test your home for radon
  • Visit National Radon Action Month events in your location
  • Encourage friends & family to test their homes
  • Use the EPA’s Event Planning Kit to organize events
  • If you’re looking for a new home, search for a radon-resistance home

How to Reduce Radon Levels in Your Home

First and foremost, use a long-term radon test to ensure there aren’t high levels of radon in your home. If your radon system indicates levels over 4pCi/L, it’s time to contact a professional radon contractor for a mitigation system.

When radon is in the air, a mitigation system needs to be set up. A certified radon contractor will look at the structure of your home to determine which mitigation system is best for you.

RadonAway works with a team of certified radon contractors across the country who have years of experiencing installing radon mitigation systems. Regardless of which state you reside in, we’ll provide you with the right contractor. Explore our Find a Radon Professional page to fill out a form and get in touch with a radon mitigator today.

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What You Should Know About Radon in Water

test water for radon

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says, “Test evey well for radon.”  However, there is currently no national recommended safe radon level for radon in water. The 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments required EPA to establish several new, health-based drinking water regulations, including a multimedia approach to address the public health risks from radon. Although proposals were made, none have been enforced.

The following is summarized and edited from a Position Statement dated March 16, 2016, regarding radon in water supplies compiled by the Technical and Science Committee of the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST)

Radon Exposure Risk

The most significant health threat posed by indoor radon gas is an increased risk of lung cancer from breathing the gas and its radioactive byproducts. The lung cancer risk varies based on the amount of radon in the air and the duration of exposure. While the risk increases the longer the polluted air is breathed in, any exposure can be dangerous. The U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. EPA, AARST, and the American Lung Association recommend that all homes be tested for radon, so that proper measures can be taken if radon levels are high. High levels of radon in groundwater can carry health risks as well; unfortunately, the EPA does not currently have sufficient data to identify specific areas of the U.S. most likely to have this issue.

Sources of Radon in Air and Water

The main sources of indoor radon gas are the soil and rock beneath buildings. There is always some amount of radioactivity occurring in soil, producing radon gas that can enter structures.

A less common but significant source of radon is groundwater in homes that have wells. Radon is easily released from water into the air while being used for purposes such as bathing, washing, and drinking. The radon risk from this source varies greatly depending on concentration of radon in the water, amount of water used, and building ventilation rate. Surface water does not carry this same risk, as there are usually very low levels of radon present.

Testing Methods for Radon in Water

The two methods currently recommended by the EPA for measuring radon levels in water are liquid scintillation counting and alpha scintillation cells. These are good indicators, but aren’t able to measure how much radon escapes from the water into the air. Use of these measurements to estimate exposure can result in large discrepancies due to differences in:  the amount of groundwater used by each home, the ventilation rates between homes, and the amount of radon that escapes from the water into the air.

Better estimates of radon exposure can be found through radon in air testing.  According to testing protocols, testing should be performed in the lowest (lived in) level of the building, with the test placed 20” above the floor and 12” from the walls. Another measurement should be taken in a location where there is substantial water use, as well as in another room on the same floor. To confirm that the water is causing a difference, a third measurement can be taken in another room on the same floor. If measurements are above the EPA recommended action level, the building should be retested. If high levels are present,  particularly on upper floors, the water should be tested. If concentrations of radon in the water are above 4000 pCi/L, the radon should be remediated to prevent elevated air levels.

Reducing Radon in Air and Water

The most effective system to reduce indoor radon levels in air is an active soil depressurization (ASD) system. For radon in water, the EPA has designated water aeration as the “best available technology.”

Who Should Test for Radon in Water?

It is recommended that water be tested by a qualified professional. Then, if results are high, contact a trained, experienced radon professional.  To find a qualified radon professional in your area, go to our Find a Radon Professional page.

 

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Are Children at a Higher Risk from Radon

First and foremost, it’s crucial to know that radon can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or home state. This is why every home across the nation must be tested for radon; there’s no way to know if your home and your family are affected without testing.

When it comes to protecting your children, why risk exposing them to a radioactive gas when it can easily be detected and prevented? In fact, it is believed that, because their lungs are still developing and their respiratory rates are higher than those of adults, children are more susceptible to lung damage due to radon exposure.

children radon risk

What the Researchers Say about Children’s Radon Risk

 A study conducted in 2016  by a University of Louisville School of Nursing researcher found that parents are not testing for radon even with children present in the home. It’s not only parents in the United States who aren’t testing for radon but those across the globe.

According to the Centers for Disease Control:
Many factors influence the risk of radon-related lung cancer due to radon exposure, including:

  • Age during exposure,
  • Duration of exposure,
  • Concentration of radon as a function of age and duration,
  • Cigarette smoking,
  • Time spent and concentrations in different portions of the home, in transportation routes, and in the office, (e.g., where and how long persons sleep, work, and recreate).

Due to lung shape and size differences, children have higher estimated radiation doses than do adults. Children also have breathing rates faster than those of adults.

Risk of lung cancer in children resulting from exposure to radon may be almost twice as high as the risk to adults exposed to the same amount of radon.

If children are also exposed to tobacco smoke, the risk of getting lung cancer increases at least 20 times.

Protecting Your Children from Radon Is Easy

  1. Test your home for radon.
  2. If the radon level is 4.0 pCi/L, hire a qualified radon mitigator to fix it.

To find a professional radon tester and/or mitigator in your area, go to our Find a Radon Professional to request a consultation.

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Symptoms of High Radon Levels

Radon gas is colorless, odorless, tasteless and extremely hazardous to your health.  Anyone, including you, can be living with radon, but you won’t know it unless you test. The EPA strongly urges homeowners whose homes test at 4 pCi/L or higher to have their homes mitigated. The EPA further encourages homeowners to consider mitigating if levels are 2 to 4 pCi/L.

How Radon Harms the Body

Radon, a radioactive gas that is created from decaying uranium, is the second leading cause of lung cancer. When inhaled, alpha particles created by the breakdown process modify DNA and cause mutations. Unfortunately, there aren’t any physical symptoms of radon poisoning, but consider seeing a doctor if you experience any of the signs and symptoms below, which may be due to radon exposure.

Signs & Symptoms of Possible Lung Damage:

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Heavy breathing
  • Lung infections

In addition to these being signs and symptoms of possible lung damage, they may also be indicators of lung cancer.

Lung Cancer

Even if you’re a nonsmoker, but you’ve been living in an environment with radon levels of over 4 pCi/L, your chances of developing lung cancer greatly increase. In fact, the odds are similar to your risk of dying in a car accident.  If you currently smoke or have in the past, your likelihood of developing lung cancer from radon is much higher.

Radon causes 14% of lung cancer cases across the globe, and radon exposure is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the U.S. alone. 2,900 of these deaths are among those who’ve never even smoked. Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.