Hidden Danger in Homes Part Two

Joy Hollowell

Updated 1 year ago

About one out of every four homes in Maine has high levels of radon.The radioactive gas seeps out of the soil as well as water.Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.So why aren’t we hearing more about it?Radon testing in homes is not mandatory but it is highly recommended by the state.If your levels do come back high, which is a pretty good chance, no worries, your house won’t be condemned. Joy Hollowell has part two of her special report on A Hidden Danger in Homes.====The discovery of radon in our state is nothing new. C.T. Hess, a Physics Professor at the University of Maine in Orono. He’s been studying radon for “a lot of years. Since 19-72,” says Professor Hess.Back then, he was researching radioactive levels around the Maine Yankee nuclear power plant in Wiscasset.”We found radon was quite high around the reactor and that surprised us because they hadn’t put any of the fuel in yet,” says Hess. “So that means it has to be in the ground.” Professor Hess and his students test for radon in the University of Maine’s physics laboratories. He says to date, about 60,000 homes in Maine have gone through radon testing, not nearly enough in his opinion.”We’ve been worried about the radioactivity coming from Japan. 7,000 miles,” says Hess. “What about the radon that comes up through the cracks of the basement, that come up four feet?”John Wilson runs Great Works Home Inspections out of Saint Albans. He’s licensed through the state to test for radon in the air, a process he says didn’t come quickly.”I took the concentrated course, it was 5 full 8 hour days,” explains Wilson.Homeowners can opt to buy their own testing canisters at a hardware store. However, Wilson says there are advantages to going through a licensed testor.”The biggest difference is the protocol for handling the canisters,” he says. “First and foremost, we have a system where there is a custody, a chain of custody maintained on every canister.”The test takes 48 hours and is best done in the winter, when your doors and windows are closed for most of the time. Two canisters are used to get a more accurate reading. they’re sent off to a certified lab for results.”Protocol requires that the canisters be at least 40 inches above the floor and they be in a location that is not within three feet of a potential opening to the exterior, like a window or door,” Wilson demonstrates.Air is most often to blame, according to Wilson. If that is the case in your home, you’ll need to invest in some sort of air or water filtration system, otherwise known as radon mitigation.”That’s going to mean a fairly significant chipping up of the basement slab, just for openers,” explains Wilson. “And then you’ve got to figure out where the pipe is going to be located up through the house.”The idea is to create a vacuum in your house. Imagine a really large straw that sucks the contaminated air out of the soil and releases it into the air, through the roof. a fan is on constantly to generate draft.”It’s a very quiet, low-volume fan, uses about a much power as a 15 watt bulb,” says Wilson.These systems don’t come cheap…they can range anywhere from 15-hundred to three-thousand dollars. ++++About 1,300 homes in Maine installed some sort of radon mitigation system last year.If you’d like more information on how to test your home for radon, the state of Maine does have a website. You’ll find a list of licensed testors, labs and mitgators, as well as other information on the radioactive gas.Log onto www.MaineRadiationControl.org


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