As a Maine Water Radon Mitigation company, much of the work we perform is directly connected to home sales – specifically, installing water Radon treatment systems for people buying and/or selling a home.
Despite awareness efforts from Realtors and Home inspectors, there is still a great deal of confusion regarding the differences between the Radon found inside a home’s air and the Radon found in a home’s drinking water.
In this article we’ll examine those differences, explain how Radon enters a home’s water & air supply and shed some light on the ways a homeowner can minimize the risks associated with indoor Radon infiltration.
How did Radon get in my Water and/or Air?
Water Radon is a toxic gas that is released from the breakdown of Uranium found in underground bedrock layers.
In many cases these layers of bedrock are the same exact rock formations that sit directly below our homes, and pass through the supply veins that feed our wells.
“My home’s air tested high for Radon. Why did this happen?”
Because gas rises, when your home sits directly above a deposit of bedrock that happens to have and release high levels of Radon gas, there is a good chance at least some of that gas will make its way into your home.
How does this happen? It occurs primarily as a result of openings found in your home’s foundation or crawl space. As the gas rises underground it tries to take the path of least resistance to free itself. In most homes the path of least resistance happens to be the cracks and openings (such as sump-pump holes) in the foundation’s concrete flooring.
Once the gas passes through these cracks and openings, it then enters the home’s air supply.
Keeping in mind our explanation of air Radon infiltration from above, let’s examine how that same Radon can infiltrate your home’s water supply, as well.
In many cases, the same Radon gas that is being released underground, directly below your home, finds another very convenient path of least resistance to make its way above ground – your home’s drilled well.
Underground wells are drilled directly into…you guessed it…bedrock. The same exact bedrock that releases Radon gas into a home’s air supply.
Depending on many factors such as well depth and which particular water supply veins the drilling process passes through, Radon gas can easily become an unwelcome hitchhiker that catches a free ride to the surface using a home’s well water.
When this happens, every time you turn on a shower head, you start your dishwasher or a load of laundry, Radon gas gets aerated and released into the air you breathe in your home.
What are the Safe Levels for Radon?
Radon in both air and water supplies is measured in Picocuries per liter. This will typically show up on lab reports as pCi/L.
Typical air Radon measurements in most homes are usually found in single or double digits ( 6.5 pC/i/L, 12.7 pCi/L etc.). Typical water Radon measurements in a home are usually found in the thousands or tens of thousands (8,900 pCi/L, 21,400 pC/i/L etc.).
Air Radon Safe Level – 4.0 pCi/L
The EPA has set the safe standard for levels of Radon in a home’s air supply at 4.0 pCi/L. Levels above this represent an increased risk for health concerns, specifically lung cancer.
When a home has tested for air Radon levels above 4.0 pCi/L it is recommended that an Air Radon Mitigation system is installed.
Water Radon Safe Level – 4,000 pCi/L
Levels of Radon in a home’s water supply above 4,000 pCi/L are considered to be an unacceptable risk for the exact same health concerns mentioned above.
When a home has tested for water Radon levels above 4000 pCi/L it is recommended that a Water Radon Mitigation system is installed.
How do I Remove Radon from my Home?
When the Radon found your home’s water or air supply is above the recommended safe levels, you need to mitigate those sources of Radon to reduce the associated health risk for your family.
Water Radon Mitigation
Whether you realize it or not there’s a good chance your home is already loaded with Radon Systems. Huh? Did you just say I already have Radon systems in my home?
Yes…sort of. Let me explain.
When we install a water Radon mitigation system in a home, essentially, we are installing a system that is performing the second half of what your home is already doing naturally – agitating and aerating the Radon out of your water.
Every time you or your family turns on a faucet, takes a shower, does the laundry or runs a load of dishes, you are “aerating” and releasing Radon gas from your water supply into the air you breathe. Unfortunately, when you do this, you are coming in very close proximity to highly concentrated levels of Radon Gas.
*For more on this check out Why Radon in Water is a Health Concern
To prevent this from happening, we install a system that completes the needed second half of the equation, so that your family can remain safe from water Radon exposure. We install a Radon “Bubbling” or aeration system to trap and safely vent that gas outdoors, before it has a chance to aerate itself inside your home.
Water Radon Systems mimic the same action you did when you were a kid and you blew air down through a straw into a glass of soda. The bubbles that resulted at the top was your air/gasses being released from the liquid.
Radon Systems do the same exact thing. What makes the obvious difference between your shower heads, dishwasher or faucets is that a water Radon system is a completely contained system that “vents” those gas bubbles to a suitable point outside of your home.
These systems are simply jumping in and interrupting the flow of Radon before it can enter your family’s water supply.
Air Radon Mitigation
If you followed along in our previous example of water Radon “interruption”,
this next part should be pretty simple.
Air Radon systems do the same exact thing as water Radon systems do: they interrupt the process before the gases can be released from your home’s foundation.
The first thing an Air Radon professional does is to seal up likely sources of Radon in a home’s foundation. In other words, they make sure to seal up any crack in the foundation or open cavities in the slab such as sump holes.
Next, using a fan motor and PVC pipe drilled through a home’s foundation, a simple system is installed to trap and ventilate Radon from below the home’s foundation, to a suitable exterior point, before it has a chance to enter a home’s living space.
In essence, these systems create an interrupted “path of least resistance” for the Radon gas to escape, before it has a chance to enter the home’s air supply.
I’m not Sure what my Levels of Radon are!
To state the obvious, you need to have both the water and the air in your home tested for Radon. Guessing at these levels based on either previous tests from years ago or from assuming your levels are low because your neighbor’s levels happen to be low, could be a large mistake.
Radon levels in a home can and do change, especially in certain homes. Radon in water can be extremely selective. I can’t tell you how many times over the years we have seen 2 homes built side by side with wells drilled within 50 feet of each other, only to discover that one home has virtually no Radon at all, while the other has dangerously high levels.
Test your home’s air and water to make sure they fall under the recommended safe limits. If possible, try to do so once every 1-2 years. It’s far better to be safe than sorry.
For information on Radon testing contact our offices at 207-675-3272. You can also visit the State of Maine page for Licensed Maine Water Testing Facilities.