Are Radon Levels Higher In the Basement?

are radon levels higher in the basement

According to the WHO, the outdoor radon levels should be between five and 15 Bq/m3.

Shockingly, the indoor radon levels are almost always higher than this, especially in homes, offices, water treatment facilities, and schools.

In some cases, the concentration of up to 10,000 Bq/m3 has been found in indoor spaces.

Radon escapes from the ground and moves to the surrounding air.

That raises the question, “Are radon levels higher in the basement?”

Since the basement is closest to the ground, is it where all the radon accumulates?

Unfortunately, yes. Basements and cellars have a higher level of radon than the rest of the house.

But then again, is radon only in basements? Initially, it may be confined to the basement, but it can spread around quickly.

Let’s discuss this toxic gas in detail.

Table Of Contents

What Is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally and is produced by uranium decay.

Since you can neither smell nor see radon, it isn’t easy to detect its presence.

How It Enters Your Property

Radon creeps into indoor spaces, especially the basements, via multiple routes.

Uranium is primarily found in rocks and soil. From there, it escapes into the ground and air.

As uranium enters the air, it decays even more. As a result, it produces radioactive particles.

How Dangerous Is It?

When you breathe this air, the particles settle on the cell lining of your lungs.

Besides damaging the integrity of the lungs, these radioactive particles also damage the DNA.

Outside, it’s not much of a problem since the air is a combination of different gases.

Radon gets diluted by other components of the outdoor air. However, the indoors lack these diluting agents.

Thus, radon concentration tends to be higher indoors, raising concern among homeowners.

Currently, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking.

If you’re a smoker living in a radon-filled home, your chances of getting lung cancer are the highest.

What Causes High Radon Levels in Basements?

Simply put, uranium is the culprit here. However, a lot more goes behind the scenes.

Being closest to the ground, the basement serves as the major entry point for this toxic gas.

Most basements have a porous foundation made of concrete. The porosity allows radon to enter the basement.

The cracks in the floors and walls lead to a rise in radon levels. Plus, crawlspaces in the ground floor increase the risk of radon poisoning in a home.

But, is radon only in basements? Is the ground floor the only high-risk area in your home?

Well, no. Other areas are also exposed to radon, although not as much as the basement.

For instance, natural stone is a radon source since it has traces of radium and uranium.

The granite countertops you installed for aesthetics might be increasing the radon levels in your home.

Although they only release a small fraction of the total indoor radon, we’re talking about the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Even a tiny amount is concerning.

Do I Need a Radon Test if I don’t Have a Basement?

If you’re wondering: “Do I need a radon test if I don’t have a basement?” the answer is you may not necessarily need it.

Still, it’s useful to get it done, especially if you detect symptoms of radon in your home.

You can hire a radon tester to use the appropriate devices for detecting radon levels in your home.

Alternatively, you can order a testing kit from a qualified lab or service provider.

Different Types of Radon Testing Devices

Radon testing devices can be categorized into active and passive. 

Passive Devices

These devices don’t require power to work and can be bought from most hardware stores.

You have to expose them to the air in your basement for a while and then send them for lab analysis.

Some examples include:

  • Alpha-track detectors
  • Charcoal canisters
  • Electret ion chamber detectors

Active Devices

Active radon testing devices require power, and most of them provide the results immediately.

Additionally, these devices are better at deterring interference than passive devices. Thus, they may be costly, but they’re also more reliable. 

Some example includes:

  • Continuous radon monitors
  • Continuous working level monitors

For instance, the AirThings WaveSmart radon monitor is a battery-powered device that gives you a quick analysis of air quality.

How To Prevent Interference

While using a testing device, you have to minimize interference to get the best results.

Here are some of the recommended ways to reduce interference:

  • Use a testing device frequently to notice a change in results.
  • A barometer reads pressure. Use it to detect any pressure changes in the basement as they can affect radon concentration.
  • Check if the windows are open or have been opened lately.
  • Use a motion detector to check if the testing device was moved from its place.

If you’ve recently moved into a house and are unsure about the radon testing history, ask the previous homeowners.

are radon levels higher in the basement

What Do You Do if Your Basement Has Radon?

If you took too long to worry about the question, are radon levels higher in the basement? Don’t worry! There’s still hope.

Today, there are many cost-efficient and effective methods to prevent radon’s entry into new homes and reduce the levels in existing spaces.

Some countries have made it mandatory to include protective measures for radon in the construction of new houses.

The USA doesn’t have such laws yet. Thus, you have to look out for your home.

Alternatively, you need a soil suction mechanism to remove or reduce the gas from your basement.

Soil-Suction Mechanisms

Typically, one of the four soil suction methods is used.

  • Active Subslab Suction

It’s the most common method of radon reduction in the basement.

A contractor will insert a suction pipe into the soil underneath the basement through the floor slab.

Sometimes, they may insert multiple suction pipes under the concrete slabs.

The number of suction pipes depends on radon’s intensity and the movement of air in the soil and crushed rock. 

  • Drain Tiles

As the name indicates, drain tiles direct the groundwater away from your home’s foundation.

Adding a soil suction mechanism to these tiles proves to be effective in radon reduction.

  • Sump-Hole Suction 

Often, homes have a sump pump that removes excess water from the foundation.

The sump-hole suction mechanism caps it out, making it a prime location for installing a radon suction pipe.

  • Block-Wall Suction

Lastly, block-wall suction is suitable for basements that have hollow walls.

Following the same principle as the sub-slab suction, this method depressurizes the hollow walls.

Other Simple Measures

While you’re building a house, it’s best to incorporate radon-reduction features to prevent indoor toxicity in the future. 

You can also take some measures later to deal with a radon spike in the home.

  • Firstly, increase the ventilation in your basement. You can do this by improving the under-floor ventilation.
  • Plus, open the windows on a pleasant day. It will allow radon to escape from the house.
  • Cover up the exposed parts of the basement with caulking.
  • Seal all the cracks in the basement walls and floors.
  • Install a sump system under the floor to suck radon out of the room. 

Prevent Stack Effect

Another important thing to keep in mind is to reduce the stack effect.

When there’s a significant difference between the temperature inside and outside the house, the outdoor air may move inside along the pressure gradient.

As a result, more radon enters your home.

Thus, when the temperature is too hot or cold, you should cool and heat your home as sparingly as possible.

Doing this will reduce the stack effect’s chances, keeping an equilibrium between the temperature indoors and outdoors.

Does Finishing Basement Reduce Radon Levels?

Most people think that finishing the basement may solve their radon problem. However, it’s not always true.

It may increase the basement’s functionality but doesn’t guarantee a reduction in radon concentration.

Radon and Your Home

If you’ve ever wondered: are radon levels higher in the basement? You now have the answer.

Dealing with radon should be your utmost priority since the gas is carcinogenic.

Test your house for radon and introduce radon-reduction features to keep your family safe from this toxic gas.

Last Piece of Advice

Instead of dealing with it later, it’s best to tackle the radon issue during the transaction phase.

If you’re buying a new house, the EPA recommends getting it tested for radon.

Although federal laws don’t require radon testing for selling a house, you can request previous testing records.

Although the answer to “Are radon levels higher in the basement?” is a yes, that doesn’t mean you should neglect other parts of the home.

Yes, the problem starts in the basement, but radon quickly rises through the air and moves to the other rooms through cracks in the walls.

If not dealt with properly, radon may be trapped inside your home, building up over time.

Every one in fifteen homes in the USA has a higher radon level than average. That’s putting hundreds of families at risk of lung cancer.

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