Radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless radioactive gas that is formed when uranium beneath the earth's surface naturally decomposes. Radon emits radioactive particles, and when inhaled, they damage the cells lining the lungs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 21,000 people die of lung cancer each year as a result of long-term exposure to radon - it is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
Radon in Minnesota
Every state in the US has measurable amounts of radon, and Minnesota has one of the highest levels of radon in the country. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 80% of MN counties are listed as high-risk zones, and two in five MN homes have radon levels that pose a significant health risk.
How Does Radon Enter the Home?
Radon is formed underground through the decomposition of Uranium. As a noble gas, it diffuses up through the soil, and negative air pressure in the basement sucks the radon through unsealed pathways. We typically mitigate this issue by installing a sub-slab depressurization system, which forces the radon to bypass the house.
Pathways into the Home
- Cracks in concrete slabs
- Spaces behind brick veneer walls that rest on uncapped hollow-brick foundation
- Pores and cracks in concrete blocks or concrete walls
- Floor-wall joints
- Exposed soil, as in a sump or crawl space
- Loose-fitting pipe penetrations
- Open tops of block walls
- Mortar joints
Radon gets sucked into homes, in a vacuum effect, because they maintain negative air pressure relative to the underlying soil and surrounding air. Radon that is rising to the surface takes the easiest pathway, and the negative pressure of the home sucks the radon in through pathways in the lower level of the home, where it then concentrates.
Testing for Radon
Testing is the only way to determine the radon level of your home. The EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General recommend testing all homes at the lowest level of regular use, and they also recommend retesting every 2-5 years or after major renovations. Radon test kits may be purchased at a discounted rate through the Minnesota Department of health here.