By Barry Stone
Q: Our home was recently found to contain unsafe levels of radon gas, and articles we've read about this radioactive hazard have us worried. The people who had offered to buy our home canceled the purchase when their home inspector discovered that we have radon. Now we're wondering how we can sell our home. Who will want to buy it when they learn about radioactive contamination in the air. Is there anything we can do to eliminate this problem?
A. Overreaction to the presence of radon gas in homes is common, mainly due to inadequate or misleading information about the sources and characteristics of radon, as well as insufficient information about the means for eliminating the problem. To maintain a reasonable perspective, here are some basic facts:
• Radon gas is a naturally-occurring substance that is emitted from the ground and is present in varying concentrations nearly everywhere on Earth.
• The adverse health effects of radon, according to the EPA, are based upon exposures at high concentrations over many years.
• The means for reducing radon levels in a home are neither complicated nor unduly expensive.
With these basics in mind, here are some additional details regarding the nature of radon and the means for mitigating its presence in a home.
Radon gas is discharged from the soil, producing low levels of concentration in the atmosphere. It is most common in areas where the ground contains large amounts of rock, such as granite or shale. When radon emission occurs beneath a building, higher than normal concentrations can occur, because the radon is being contained within the enclosed space of a structure.
Radon gas is highly attracted to low-pressure areas, and the air pressure in most buildings is less than the atmospheric pressure of the outside environment. Fortunately, radon's natural attraction to low-pressure areas is the key to drawing it away from your home. Here's how that works.
The most common method for expelling radon is to install a ventilation pipe, extending from beneath the floor to the open air above the roof. This is usually done in homes that are built on concrete slab foundations or in homes with a basement. The vent pipe, which is usually made of PVC plastic or sheet metal, is typically concealed in an obscure location, such as a closet, where it extends through a hole in the slab floor. Once the shaft is in place, it is equipped with a quiet electric fan, designed to operate continuously and permanently. The low pressure that is created by the fan draws radon gas from the soil beneath the building and discharges it where the shaft emerges above the roof.
• To write to Barry Stone, visit him on the web at www.housedetective.com, or write AMG, 1776 Jami Lee Court, Suite 218, San Luis Obispo, CA 94301.
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