When you think of an invisible threat lurking in the air, you probably think viruses, mold or carbon monoxide (CO). However, there is another pollutant that is even more dangerous and far more prevalent when it comes to indoor air quality (IAQ). According to the EPA, radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the number one cause among non-smokers. It’s also something that’s only ever touched upon during home inspection and often never again. But radon levels can change over time, which is why if you’re already working on an air quality solution, radon monitoring should be factoring into that as well.
Consumers are more aware of the risks their homes pose than ever before given the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. While a lot of talk about air quality revolves around viruses, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter, consumers have become far more aware of the dangers of radon as well. In fact, radon reduction measures in a home have been found to increase the resale value as safe, healthy and environmentally-friendly homes become more in demand over time.
Where Does Radon Come From?
Short answer? The soil. Long answer: it’s a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is created as natural uranium in the earth decays. Its everywhere, however, when it gets released into the open air, it dissipates and doesn’t require a second thought. The problem comes when it gets concentrated in enclosed spaces.
When radon rises up from the ground and seeps in through gaps in the building foundation, it becomes trapped within the building. New buildings, old buildings, it doesn’t matter. Unless the structure is completely airtight, radon has the potential to accumulate in homes and reach dangerously high levels, posing serious health risks for those who are exposed to it.
And there is no such thing as a ‘radon-free’ area of the world. Radon levels may vary from place to place, but it’s always going to be a ‘more radon’ or ‘less radon,’ type of situation, and that situation can change at any given moment.
Recent Events: As global climate levels continue to change, there is an increased concern further up north that thawing permafrost will potentially release greater amounts of radon into homes, leading to an increased demand for radon monitoring.
Why Is It So Dangerous?
Because radon gas is radioactive, you’re breathing in radioactive particles when you breathe in radon. As a result, your lungs receive direct exposure to this radiation, effectively breaking apart DNA where it hits. This is how lung cancer develops. Bodies use instructions in the DNA to heal itself, and when the DNA gets damaged, this can lead to faulty healing, which in turn can lead to cancer. Even minimal exposure is dangerous as the radiation from radon is held in the body for up to 25 years.
The EPA recommends that homes with levels at or above 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) have an active removal system in place.
Why You Should Be Discussing it With Your Clients
Radon monitoring systems aren’t just a “nice to have” feature, they’re vital for maintaining a healthy living space, even when levels are low. The EPA recommends that houses built with radon-resistant features should still have radon monitoring in place so that, if and when gases reach a dangerous level, that passive system can then be upgraded into an active system. For technology specialists, this then opens up another potential opportunity: as the smart radon monitoring device is already installed, why not offer to sync it up with the active system once it’s installed to remove radon whenever a certain threshold is tripped?
A feature like a smart radon monitoring device can also serve more than one purpose, measuring general air quality, heat and moisture in whatever room it’s installed in, which, considering most monitors go in the basement, moisture management there is a prime concern for homeowners anyways. This can either lead into a greater discussion about a whole-house IAQ solution or be an addition onto an ongoing conversation about indoor air quality within a home. And the best part of it all is that it’s an incredibly simple installation that can be packaged into other air quality or alert systems.
The only thing stopping most homeowners from asking for this normally is that, there’s a good chance they don’t even know it’s a possibility. But, the good news is that, in discussions, when they are made aware of what options they have for creating a safe, healthy space, they’re willing to listen.