Milwaukee, Wis. – Radon, an odorless, tasteless, radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in the soil presents grave health dangers and is the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths. The World Health Organization reports that radon gas is responsible for approximately 20,000 deaths in the U.S. and 100,000 deaths worldwide each year. It is estimated that more than eight million U.S. homes have dangerous levels of radon gas.
January is National Radon Action Month and the Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council, Inc., is encouraging homeowners to take steps to protect their homes.
“If you haven’t tested for radon, you should,” said Bob Vescio, owner of Advanced Radon Management Co, Pewaukee, and a member of Milwaukee/NARI. Vescio is certified for radon testing and mitigation by the National Environmental Health Association and is a state of Wisconsin listed radon tester. “The geology of this area and the Upper Midwest make it more likely that homes have a higher level of radon than in other parts of the country,” he said.
The EPA estimates that one in 15 homes has radon gas present; it is the level of gas present that indicates whether mitigation is necessary. Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). When test results are 4 pCi/L or higher home modifications are needed to reduce the radon level. “A radon level of 4 pCi/L is equivalent to about 200 chest x-rays a year,” Vescio said.
Radon in the ground moves upward into the home through foundation cracks, construction joints or gaps around pipes, sumps, drains, and other openings. The amount of radon in the soil depends on soil chemistry, which varies from one house to the next. The amount of radon that escapes from the soil to enter the house depends on the weather, soil porosity, soil moisture, and the suction within the house.
“The torrential rains we had in the summer of 2010 most likely resulted in a spike in radon in some homes,” Vescio said.
To test for radon in a home, Vescio or one of his certified staff will evaluate which one of a number of devices (charcoal, electret ion chamber, alpha track, continuous radon gas monitor or grab radon) is appropriate for the home/site. A test lasts from 48-hours to 90 days. “We get an hour-to-hour printout on how the levels may change within a home. We can give homeowners results within 48 hours and if the level is above 4 pCi/L, we recommend mitigation.”
“Radon mitigation is most commonly achieved by generating negative pressure under the slab floor,” he said.
Fans and pipes “suck” the gas from the soil and vent it to the outdoors, where it safely disperses. Protocols are followed to ensure the venting is at least two feet above the eaves or 10 feet away from the structure.
“The mitigation system installed also helps with other indoor air quality issues, such as mold, moisture, and fungus. It saves the homeowner energy by reducing the humidity; and a dehumidifier oftentimes is no longer needed,” he said. “Once the systems are in place, there is virtually no maintenance; the homeowner just needs to make sure the fan is running.. Radon levels do need to be rechecked every other year, per the EPA recommendation,” he said.
Before engaging a radon testing/mitigation contractor, Vescio recommends that the homeowner check the firm’s credentials. “They should have certification from the National Radon Proficiency Board, and the certification should be up-to-date as recertification is required every two years,” he said. “Also check to see if the contractor is a member of a professional organization such as Milwaukee/NARI and the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists (AARST). Contact the BBB and always ask for references.”
The Milwaukee/NARI Home Improvement Council was chartered in July 1961, as a Chapter of the National Home Improvement Council. In May of 1982, the National Home Improvement Council merged with the National Remodelers Association to form NARI – the National Association of the Remodeling Industry..
The Council’s goals of encouraging ethical conduct, professionalism, and sound business practices in the remodeling industry have led to the remodeling industry’s growth and made NARI a recognized authority in that industry. With over 800 members, the Milwaukee Chapter is the nation’s largest.
For more information or to receive a free copy of an annual membership roster listing all members alphabetically and by category, and the booklet, “Milwaukee/NARI’s Remodeling Guide,” call (414) 771-4071 or visit the Council’s Web site at www.milwaukeenari.org.