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Radon is a leading cause of lung cancer that should be considered and tested during construction.

Pranav Phatak
November 28, 2022

Understanding the Threat of Radon

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, so we are spot lighting a leading cause of lung cancer that should be considered and tested during construction.

Radon – What is the big deal anyway?

Radon is a naturally occurring inert, odorless, and colorless radioactive gas that that can seep into homes from the ground. When radon is released outside it disperses rapidly and, generally, is not a health issue. But what happens when it gets inside our homes? Radon can seep inside our homes through cracks and holes. U.S. EPA estimates that about 21,000 people die each year from radon-related lung cancer. Smokers and non-smokers alike are affected equally.

Points to remember:

  • Colorless, odorless, and radioactive gas
  • Seeps inside through cracks and holes
  • Second biggest cause of lung cancer after smoking with nearly 21,000 deaths each year due to radon inhalation
Are we in danger? What can be done?

Unfortunately, there are no routine medical tests that can indicate how much radon you have inhaled. However, indoor radon can be easily controlled and managed with proven, cost-effective techniques. Testing is the only way to determine radon levels.

Have your home tested, either by a professional or with a do-it-yourself home test kit. If radon levels are high, contact a certified radon service professional to fix your home. According to EPA guidelines, if the radiation levels are at or above 4 pCi/L (148 Bq/m3) it is a matter of concern. The easiest and quickest way to fix radon problems is by using an underground ventilation system or by increasing the rate of air changes in the building.

Homeowners: Radon is a critical issue for homeowners, so a good reason you would choose an NGBS Green certified home is because in addition to be energy and water efficiency and other green practices, NGBS Green certified homes have protections against radon intrusion so a home buyer can have peace of mind.

Check radon levels at least every two years since soil gases can shift overtime. Radon testing is critical even if you do not have a basement.

Builders: Consult EPA’s radon maps for the areas where your company builds and understand radon reduction strategies.

  • Passive mitigation system: A vertical vent pipe pulls out soil gases (from ground) and release them out from the roof
  • Active mitigation system: A similar system with a fan in series with the vent pipe - Speeds up the process

It is pretty easy to convert a passive radon system into an active radon system. Ultimately, a radon exhaust fan simply needs to be installed with properly sealed electrical connections. It is advantageous to address radon reduction measures early in construction, as it is significantly more difficult to add a radon mitigation system post-construction. Proper air sealing also supports radon control.

Testing, results, and what do they mean?

There are two types of radon test kits

  • Short-term test kits (test period is 2 to 90 days)
  • Long-term test kits (test period is 90 days or more)
That’s a relief! So where can I get a radon test kit?

Short-term or long-term radon test kits can be obtained through the mail or at local hardware stores.

Contact your state radon program for information on how to obtain a test kit from a radon measurement professional.

Some states also offer free or discounted test kits to the public.

It is also possible to purchase radon test kits by phone. Call the National Radon Hotline at: 1 (800) SOS-RADON (767-7236).

How do I know my NGBS Green Certified Home is protected?
  • For buildings in Zone 1, a passive radon mitigation system installation is mandatory.
  • Your home may also have an active radon mitigation system – this would typically be noted on the NGBS Green checklist that you should have received at closing from your builder.
  • For the 2020 NGBS version, radon testing is mandatory for buildings in Zone 1, and testing can earn optional points for buildings in other zones.
  • Radon is one of the leading causes of lung cancer.
  • Testing for radon levels should be done at least every two years.
  • Radon test kits are available in stores, online or through a phone call.
  • The NGBS offers points for radon testing and radon mitigation.

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