The Silent Stalker: Simple Solutions for Vapor Intrusion

When you think of radiation entering your home, you might not be too worried about it. After all, you don’t live near a radioactive power plant. But, what about background radiation? Did you know that radioactive materials are all over the place? They’re in the ground, and the radiation that decomposing rocks and other materials give off is potentially very dangerous.

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How Does Radiation Affect My Family?

When radiation enters your home, it can affect people differently depending on their current health. It also depends on what chemical is coming into your home and who lives there. The people most at risk of severe serious problems are pregnant women, children, elderly people or people that are immunocompromised.

According to environmental data resources, some chemical exposures can eventually lead to cancer, so this isn’t something you want to take lightly.

What Is Vapor Intrusion?

Vapor intrusion is pretty much what it sounds like – vapor makes its way into your home. It seems up through dirt or infiltrates air spaces in your home. Don’t think that because you have a new construction home that you’re less at risk for this type of seepage. The truth is that all homes have breaks in the walls – doors, windows, and ventilation systems all allow outdoor air in.

Sometimes, radon gas can seep in through the basement through cracks or crevices in the foundation. There are so many sources of radon, but the most common is normally decaying material under the ground.

Radon is colorless and odorless, so you’ll never be able to detect it unless you have special equipment designed for such purposes. Fortunately, this equipment isn’t expensive, and it’s very accurate. The downside is that it’s sometimes expensive to remove it once you’ve found it.

What Can I Do About It?

Removing radon gas is done in one of several ways. First, there is passive removal. Failing that, active removal usually does the trick. Passive removal relies on sealing up the home so that you prevent more radon gas from entering while allowing the windows and ventilation system of the home to clear the existing gas.

Usually, this involves putting down a vapor barrier, sealing up all cracks in the basement with caulk or other sealant, and keeping an eye on any infiltration points in the home.

Active removal involves setting up a fan system designed to move the radon gas out of the home. It’s essentially an exhaust system. If newer homes, this is easy to install when the home is being built. If you have an older home, however, it tends to be more technically challenging to install as well as expensive.

Ventilation systems are usually positioned throughout the home, with fans that move air out – like a circulation system in a traditional HVAC.

If you want good control over the system, place a junction box in an easy-to-access area, like the kitchen or basement where you don’t have to crawl around in tight spaces to check the operation of the fan.

Peter Samuels is a veteran of home maintenance. He often blogs about his techniques to a safe and comfortable home.

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