The Blog

Clean Air: The Danger of Radon in Your Crawl Space

By Chuck Henrichsen on February 22, 2014

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Radon test kit — Image courtesy of GrrlScientist

Radon is a naturally occurring colorless, odorless gas that is emitted from natural deposits of uranium in the soil, rocks and water. Radon is result of the decay of uranium and is a naturally radioactive element.

Approximately two radon atoms are released from every square centimeter of soil everywhere on the Earth every second of each day. This adds up to quite a bit of radon, of course, but the majority of this is dispersed into the atmosphere and humans experience little to no effects from their daily outdoor contact with radon.

So, when does the risk occur? When we are inside. Radon emitted from the soil into our foundations, basement and crawl spaces will leach throughout an entire building. In fact, radon has become such an issue that the Surgeon General and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Over 21,000 people die from this preventable cause annually.

Radon becomes dangerous when trapped in buildings as the concentration continues to build. An example of a dangerously high level is 4pC per liter of air. Because we breathe about 20 liters of air into our lungs each minute, the average adult can accumulate 10,000 radioactive atoms in our lungs, trachea and bronchi every minute. Yikes!

Radon can enter your home through cracks in solid floors, walls, construction joints and the gaps of the crawl spaces. Differences in the air pressure of the crawl space and soil beneath the home also encourage the upward migration of radon through your floorboards.

You Don’t Need Gasmasks:

Protecting your home against radon exposure isn’t quite as hard as it seems. Radon starts in the soil beneath your home and travels up. What’s between your first floor and the soil? Your basement or crawl space!

One of the best ways you can keep your air clean is to properly vent your basement or crawl space. From here, you can look around to make sure you don’t have any gaps in the floor above through which radon can migrate. Plug up these holes with caulk or glue.

Look At The Walls and Floor

Look at the walls of your crawl space—any exposure to bare dirt allows radon into the air. Plug up these holes too! (If your crawl space is properly insulated, you should have no exposure to soil or foundations.)

Don’t forget your floor! All crawl spaces should be properly covered and sealed with a continuous vapor barrier. This can be a large and messy job, so calling in professionals is advised.

What To Do If You Have High Radon Readings

If you have a particularly high density of radon in your home, you may need to take things a step further. Another way that the professionals reduce the amount of radon drifting up through homes with a particularly high radon reading, is by drilling a hole through your basement or crawl space. Into this they insert a length of plastic pipe and seal it firmly in place.

This pipe is then vented to the outside of the building, where it is connected to a suction fan that draws air and radon from the hole. This creates a low pressure area beneath the floor, preventing air and radon from seeping into the living space, but instead floats harmlessly outside.

More Tips on Avoiding Radon:

  • Cover your sump pump drains

  • Seal all foundational cracks

  • Fill gaps between floors and around service pipes

  • Fill wall cavities

Radon is estimated to cause more deaths than drunk driving each year. Taking steps to ensure the safety of your family in this way is vital to your health. Research if high radon is common in your area. Investigate obtaining a radon test kit. Keeping your indoor air clean will help keep your family healthy for years to come.

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Chuck Henrichsen
President and CEO of Clean Crawls, Treasurer of E3 World Wide, proud husband and father.

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