What is Radon Mitigation?

Commercial Radon Mitigation job, drilling two 4 inch holes through 26 inches of concrete, to install PVC vent pipes, one to vent out radon and one for fresh air intake.

  Radon mitigation is any means by which radon gas is reduced. The result of the steps taken to reduce radon in a home or building is typically referred to as a radon mitigation system. A radon mitigation system is composed of any one or more of a number, of structural and or non-structural measures, undertaken to reduce the the level of radon. Most radon mitigation systems in central New York homes, consist basically of 3 or 4 inch PVC pipe connected to a radon fan used to ventilate radon laden air from below the foundation, to the outside air above the home.

“Radon mitigation” is also referred to as:

  • radon remediation
  • radon reduction
  • radon abatement
  • radon removal
  • radon system

These are all synonymous terms for the most part, referring to modifications or systems installed in a home or building to reduce the radon levels. In central New York and Syracuse areas, “radon mitigation” is the most commonly used term.

Why mitigate radon? The purpose or goal of radon mitigation is to remove or reduce the potential hazards of breathing high concentrations of radon gas inside a home or occupied building. Radon does not pose much risk in the outdoor air but radon gas, if it builds up to high concentrations inside dwellings, can become a health problem.

The US Surgeon General and EPA recommend testing for radon and reducing radon in homes that have high levels. They both say “Fix your home if your radon level is confirmed to be 4 picocuries per liter, pCi/L, or higher.” See link to the EPA PDF booklet: “A Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction.” Most US states and developed countries around the world have similar radon safety recommendations.

What caused my radon problem? In older, drafty homes and buildings, radon is generally not as much of a problem due to the fresh air exchange from the source of those drafts, the leaky windows, doors and exterior walls and roof. Newer, high efficiency, “air tight” homes and older homes that have been upgraded with extra insulation, air sealing, new windows and doors because they are more “air tight”, tend to trap and hold radon gas as it seeps into the home from the ground below.

What is the health risk associated with breathing radon? As radon decays it produces radioactive particles that can cause damage to delicate lung tissue when breathed in. When radon builds up to high concentrations inside some buildings it can pose a health hazard. The World Health Organization says, “Recent studies on indoor radon and lung cancer in Europe, North America and Asia provide strong evidence that radon causes a substantial number of lung cancers in the general population.” For improved safety, the United States EPA recommends that you take action to reduce your home’s indoor radon levels if a radon test averages 4 pCi/L or higher.

What the heck is Radon anyways? Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium. Radon is found in rocks and soil and can also be found in groundwater, particularly in deep wells that are drilled in high radon areas. Radon gas coming from the ground tends to concentrate in enclosed spaces in buildings and houses. It is for that reason that radon is the major contributor to the ionizing radiation dose received by the vast majority of the population.

Radon in New York is found just about everywhere but some areas have higher concentrations. Cortland county has the highest average radon levels found in New York. In the greater Syracuse area of Central New York, generally speaking, south of New York State Thruway I-90, a little more than half the homes have high radon – above 4 pCi/L, for which radon mitigation is recommended. North of I-90 most homes have less than 4 pCi/L a level which is generally considered acceptable. Please be aware however geographical location is no guarantee of low radon. The only way to know for certain whether your house is recommended for radon mitigation is to do a radon test, if radon tests at 4.0 pCi/L or higher, radon mitigation is recommended.

What is the procedure for radon mitigation? If a radon test comes back high, with an average radon level of 4.0 pCi/L or higher, the consensus recommendation is to have a radon mitigation system installed. No need to panic, radon mitigation is commonplace throughout the United States and especially so in Central New York.

New York State High Radon Area Counties

Following is a list of New York State counties with high radon: Albany, Allegany, Broome, Cattaraugus, Cayuga, Chautauqua, Chemung, Chenango, Columbia, Cortland, Delaware, Dutchess, Erie, Genesee, Greene, Herkimer, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Montgomery, Oneida, Onondaga, Ontario, Orange, Otsego, Putnam, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Schuyler, Steuben, Sullivan, Tioga, Tompkins, Ulster, Washington, Wayne, Wyoming and Yates county.

Radon and other soil gases while underground are under pressure that pushes them towards the surface. Radon is pushed up through the ground simply following the path of least resistance. When it reaches the ground surface radon gas dissipates into the air. When a house or building sets on the ground where the radon comes to the surface, the radon is pushed into the building. In addition to the radon being pushed into the home or building by positive soil pressure, most buildings and homes maintain some negative pressure which actively sucks the radon in.

Excessive radon levels can be successfully mitigated in every type of home. A Best Radon Systems has successfully mitigated many hundreds of homes. Most of the radon mitigation systems we install reduce the radon to below 2 pCi/L. We provide free, on site radon mitigation consultations and estimates for the greater Syracuse, NY area. For central New York areas outside the greater Syracuse area, you can fill out our online Radon Mitigation Proposal Survey to schedule a free radon mitigation phone consultations . The types of mitigation systems vary depending on the radon source and type of home. We can explain the options for reducing radon in your home and put together a plan that effectively mitigates the radon hazard to ensure the safety of all occupants.

How does a radon mitigation system work?

Mitigation of radon in the air is accomplished through ventilation, either collected below a concrete floor slab or a membrane on the ground, or by increasing the air changes per hour in the building. Mitigation of radon from domestic water supplies is also sometimes needed usually when deep wells are present in high radon areas. Treatment systems using aeration or activated charcoal are available to remove radon from domestic water supplies.

The most common radon system utilized in homes is a sub-slab depressurization system.  A radon fan, located in an attic or outside the building, uses 3 or 4 inch PVC vent pipes to draw air out from under a basement, crawl space or slab on grade concrete slab. Prior to the radon mitigation system being installed the radon gas from the soil is pulled into the house by a slight negative pressure that exists in most homes. After radon mitigation the radon fan and vent system pull air from the soil areas below the house. The air below the house becomes negative in pressure as compared to the air inside the house and the radon gas now simply follows the path of least resistance and is vent up and out the radon vent pipes.