Radon Gas series – Metro Detroit real estate – part 1

I recently got a this question from a Metro Detroit real estate buyer.  Does Radon pose a serious health hazard to my family?  And really what is radon gas? 

Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas, derived from naturally occurring uranium deposits in the earth. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless.  It belongs to the group of noble gases, including helium, neon, argon and xenon, which are all characterized by their low level of chemical reactivity.  Radon is also a naturally occurring gas in Earth’s atmosphere.  Why is radon is a radioactive gas? It comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils.

So then why is radon hazardous is it occurs naturally?  Radon gas is hazardous when it builds up to high levels.  Congress would like to set home radon levels to outdoor radon levels.

Radon gas typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. YourMetro Detroit home traps radon inside, where it can build up.  Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. Radon gas can also contaminate well water but you are more likely to inhale radon particles by breathing than by swallowing water.   Because radon is nine times heavier than air, elevated radon levels build up in basements and on lower floors of your Metro Detroit home.

Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America and claims about 20,000 lives annually.   Dr. Maria Neira of the World Health Orginization said that “Most radon-induced lung cancers occur from low and medium dose exposures in people’s homes.”   If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, you’re at a higher risk for developing lung cancer. Some scientific studies of radon exposure indicate that children may be more sensitive to radon. This may be due to their higher respiration rate and their rapidly dividing cells, which may be more vulnerable to radiation damage.  (I also think that many people ship their kids off to the basement, and that kids are now spending much more time in the house).

There are two main sources for the radon in your Northville home: indoor air, the soil and the water supply. Radon enters the indoor environment from the soil by penetration of a building’s foundation or by release from well water.  Radon poisoning occurs when areas without adequate ventilation build up high amounts of radon gas. This can occur in underground mines, basements and in homes or buildings. Radon, like all other radioactive elements or gases, decays over a period of time, giving off tiny radioactive particles. When these particles are inhaled, they can damage the DNA in the cells of the lungs, resulting in lung cancer.

Although scientists were aware that radon exposure caused lung cancer, the high levels of radon that can accumulate in homes and buildings wasn’t discovered until 1984 when the basement of a home in Pennsylvania was found to have radon levels so extreme that the owner of house was setting off radiation alarms at the nuclear power plant where he worked.

So does every Metro Detroit home have radon gas in them?  I would bet every Northville subdivisionNovi subdivisions, and Plymouth subdivision has a home that has high radon levels.   So it is always good to have it tested.  Homes with higher radon levels can be fixed.  You can have one home that has a high radon level in it and the house next door may have a much lower level of

Should you not buy a Metro Detroit home if it has a high level of radon?  That is up to you but I would say the proper solution is to have the radon mitigated.  Have a Radon mitigation system installed.  Then buy the home once the levels are back down to the accepted levels.

I hope this helps you and explains a little about Radon gas in the metro Detroit area.

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