Archive for June, 2012
The Radon Problem in Bedford, Massachusetts
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, Middlesex County is in a Radon Zone One. That means that the average house in Bedford, Massachusetts has a radon level greater than 4.0 pCi/L. According to the EPA, houses that contain this much radon require radon abatement to reduce their levels; anyone who lives in the Bedford area, therefore, should take the precaution of having their home’s radon levels tested regularly.
Every home, no matter where it is located, should be tested for radon regularly. However, if you live in a Zone One area like Bedford, you should be particularly disciplined about doing so, and should be prepared for the strong possibility that it will require radon abatement. Nationwide, one out of fifteen houses requires radon abatement. In Bedford, that percentage is much higher than average. Even if your house has been tested for radon before, especially if it has been some time since the test was performed, it is a good idea to have the testing done again. Radon levels can build back up over time even if an attempt has been made to mitigate them in the past.
Why is Radon Abatement so Important?
Radon is a radioactive gas that is created when the small amounts of uranium found naturally in the soil degrade. The gas is colorless and has no odor, but a high radon level in your home constitutes a serious health risk to you and your family. Extended exposure to radon can cause lung cancer and other respiratory health issues.
What Issues are Addressed During Radon Abatement?
Radon rises from the soil under a house and around its foundations and can enter the house through the basement slab and foundation walls. If there is low air pressure in the house, then radon gas will be sucked in, diffusing through the basement or crawlspace walls and floor. Foundation walls and floor slabs are almost always made out of concrete, which is a naturally porous material. It is difficult to prevent a gas like radon from diffusing through it, especially if there is a pressure differential. Newer, more airtight and energy efficient houses are sometimes at an even higher risk for harmful levels of radon, since it can be even more difficult for the radon gas to get out of these houses once it is inside.
How is Radon Abatement Accomplished?
SWAT Environmental’s radon abatement experts are three main approaches to radon abatement: sealing, pressure relief and ventilation. Sealing can help slow the leakage or diffusion of radon gas into your home. However, sealing alone seldom brings radon levels down to a safe level, because it does not solve the pressure problem. To effectively lower radon levels, the area the gas is coming from — usually the area under the slab — needs to be vented to your home’s exterior. Mechanical ventilation of your home’s interior can also help to bring the concentration of radon to a safer level. These three radon abatement strategies put together can help ensure that your family is protected from radon poisoning.
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Reasons for Testing Radon Gas Levels in Bedford Homes
Research has shown that seven deaths by cancer out of 1,000 non-smokers are caused by exposure to abnormally high radon levels. Among individuals who smoke, the number of deaths is three to five times higher. Scientists who have studied the carcinogenic effects of radon gas have determined that levels above 4.0 pCi/l can be dangerous. In 1988, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Radiation Control Program recommended that as a precaution the owners of every house in the area — including in Bedford — should have their homes tested in order to determine their radon levels.
One reason for radon gas’s dangerous effects is its radioactivity. It is also invisible and has no smell, making it impossible to detect via the ordinary senses. Radioactive molecules can cause cancer of any type, but since radon gas is unknowingly breathed in through the air, it primarily affects the lungs. The problem is that radon gas can be found virtually anywhere since it is produced from the decay of uranium in the soil. This is a natural process that results in radon gas creation as a side effect. The gas rises through the soil, comes out of the ground and sometimes enters into homes. Once inside, the gas becomes trapped and can rise to harmfully high levels.
Radon Levels Are Accumulating
Since the uranium that produces radon gas is a common element, any home can become contaminated with high radon levels and be potentially dangerous for the family. Radon gas can enter from the outdoors through cracks in the foundation, floors and walls, spaces between room joints, gaps in suspended floors and similar openings. Houses with or without basements both have the ability to trap radon gas that has escaped from the ground. It does not matter if it is a newly constructed house or an old, drafty one, all structures have a chance of trapping excessively high levels of radon gas.
Monitoring and Correcting Radon Levels
There is no particular way of telling whether your house is vulnerable to accumulating radon levels since the uranium that creates it was deposited nearly everywhere when the glaciers melted. The uranium was evenly deposited into the soil and nature has since taken its course. Since it cannot be determined in advance which houses may be vulnerable to radon contamination, to reduce the risk of cancer, the Massachusetts Department of Health recommends regular radon testing. If you already own a house, you should have SWAT Environmental test the house every two years for radon gas as a safety precaution. If your house contains unsafe radon levels, SWAT Environmental’s mitigation experts can install any necessary systems to remove the radon and to prevent its return. If no radon is detected, you can sleep easy knowing that your family is safe.