Radon Gas and How it Gets Into Your Home

Part 1 of a guest series about radon gas in the home by Rick Galarheau, owner of MassRADON.

Radon gas is a decay product of uranium. Uranium is a naturally occurring element found on planet Earth. Typically it is found deep underground in the bedrock and can run in “veins.” Uranium, like most radioactive elements, goes through a decay process in which it breaks down over time and gives off, or becomes, something else that is also radioactive. In the case of uranium, it decays into another element called radium. Radium also decays and it breaks down into radon gas. Because it is a gas, radon moves easily through cracks in the earth and can travel underground with other soil gases. It can also find its way into underground water supplies. That’s how it gets into your well water. As it moves underground it works its way to the surface of the earth and naturally vents itself into the atmosphere, or into your basement and the rest of your home

Once it’s in the house, radon gas attaches itself to dust particles and travels around your house, where you breathe it in. Once it is in your lungs, radon, like the other radioactive elements, breaks down again and gives off what is known as radon daughters. These radon daughters give off a small burst of energy when they are created and that energy can damage cells in the lungs, which can in turn become a cancerous cell.

Radon in the well water creates the same problems as radon in the air. Waterborne radon is released into the air at its point of use, which is usually on the living floor. Once it’s released into the air and you breathe it in, the results are the same as airborne radon. Municipal water supplies treat the water for radon, so it has been removed before it is delivered to your home.

All houses should be tested for radon gas in the air and, if the airborne levels are elevated, in the well water. Radon is also present in the outside air at a reduced concentration, so while you cannot find a house that does not have some radon, you can test your home and it can be reduced to less toxic levels.

Rick Galarneau has been the owner-operator of Aaron Associates, MassRADON, for the last 14 years.  He is a member of the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists and the National Radon Proficiency Program. He is a National Environmental Health Association Certified radon mitigator and has successfully mitigated over 1,000 homes in Western Massachusetts. Parts 2 & 3 of this series cover testing for and mitigating radon in the home.

Gove Law Office, LLC is a general practice law firm with offices in Northampton and Ludlow, MA. The firm handles a wide variety of legal needs, including residential real estate matters. For more information, please contact Attorney Michael Gove at mgove@govelawoffice.com.