Does Opening Windows Reduce Radon or Does it Stay in the Basement?9 min read

Does Opening Windows Reduce Radon or Does it Stay in the Basement?9 min read

Were you told by your agent that opening windows will reduce radon in the basement?  And you are not sure? Let me explain.

Yes, it is true that opening windows will reduce radon. In fact, letting fresh air come in and contaminated air go out is necessary to deal with Radon.

However, if that’s the only thing you are going to do, please use caution.

Do you know the second leading cause of lung cancer?  That’s right – it’s radon.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas.  It is odorless and colorless, making it hard to identify.

You practically wouldn’t know if you are inhaling this toxic gas or not.

If someone is exposed to radon on a consistent basis it can lead to lung cancer and even affect DNA severely.

So, take it seriously. This is a true health and safety issue.  Also, know the correct level of Radon as per EPA regulation to stay safe.

Does Radon Stay in the Basement

It does accumulate in the basement for the most part.  Its concentration is usually high in basements.

Simple because it emanates out of the soil and basement is how it usually enters the house.

However, as your attic ventilation sucks the air out of your living area, naturally that air needs to be refilled.

Basement air usually gets pulled in to other living areas.  That just contaminates the whole house.

So, if you are thinking of shutting the basement door, you’re out of luck.

You need to work towards permanently solving this issue.

Is Radon Only in Basements

Not at all.  If you have a poor ventilation in your house, you can generally find an elevated amount of radon in air.

Especially, if your living area and rooms above-grade suck the air out of the basement, you will find radon contaminated air all over the house.

Think of this:

Your soil is exposed to your structure at a couple of spots. Which apparently is not sealed completely.

Even if your basement floors and sealed you are not completely protected.

The cracks in those walls and the opening where the basement concrete wall meets the earth can and will seep radon in.

Now, that seeping radon gas is behind the wall in the cavities.

Where do you think they are traveling?  That’s right to the living level.

So, unless seal the living area and all rooms and test for radon specifically, you are not sure if there is a possible pathway for radon intrusion.

Radon in Basement Symptoms – Potential Signs of Radon Poisoning:

Radon 2nd cause for lung cancer killing 21000 each year

Well, you know it’s an odorless and colorless gas.

That just means, you can’t see, taste or smell.  That’s out.

If you rent a basement apartment and want to know the signs and symptoms it pretty difficult.

However, if you know of someone who is living in the basement and exposed to high levels of radon, then you can use the below.

Obviously, if someone has lung cancer, due to radon exposure the below will usually occur:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Raspy, strained breathing
  • Unusual Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • A persistent cough
  • Pain in lungs and around the chest
  • Compromised health
  • Reduced immunity (easily susceptible to pneumonia and bronchitis)
  • Coughing up blood

In my opinion, if you see someone with the above symptoms…

… it too late.

Can Opening Windows Reduce Radon?

I know this is what you want me to answer.  I wanted to give some additional information before answer this in detail.

Now, what your agent or friend might have said it true. You can open the window and reduce radon.

But, wait…

I want to discuss this a little more so understand other associated risks.

How long are you going to leave the window open? For a few hours every now and then.

Well, in that case, your radon level will go down but will again go up as you close windows.

Opening windows will do one this.  Circulate air.

When that happens, naturally the contaminated air goes out.

But there is a big caveat.

If you only open one window and there is you don’t provide necessary cross ventilation you don’t have a chance. Opening windows might just be a wasted effort.

Look:

Here is the basic idea.

You want the old air to go out and fresh air come in.  So you need to open two windows that can basically push all old air out and suck fresh air into the basement.

If you can accomplish that, then you have a potential solution.

But even then, you are not going to leave those windows open all the time.

What happens then?  Radon, as it comes into the basement space, just contaminates the air.

If you have a negative pressure inside the house, there is no way out, your home is going to suck the air from the ground – with radon.

So, while opening windows is a possible solution, that’s temporary at best.

If you have radon issues, this is not The Solution.

Do Ceiling Fans Reduce Radon?

Radon atoms go through a decay process.  While decaying it emits other gases (also called daughters).

Now, when you end up with other gases emitted from radon, ceiling fans can be of help.

Again, they don’t address the source of the issue.   They merely help circulate the air.

In my opinion, ceiling fans, do little to address the radon gas issue.

However, the movement in the air is just enough in the removal of some of the radon decay.

If you want to use ceiling fans to tackle a radon decay gas issue, then you must install the fan in a central location.

And, most importantly, leave it running at all the times.
How to Eliminate Radon from Basement

Does Radon Travel Upstairs

In Short, it does.

I have hinted earlier that radon is not a basement only issue.

From the cracks in the wall and radon gas will travel.  It comes out of the ground and so the only way it can go is up.Sources of Radon into home and water-source wiki

And, when you HVAC runs, it circulates the air throughout the house which basically means Radon spreads all over.

Not only that.

Your house usually has a leak in the living level.  Air escaping through the attic is common.

When that happens, air needs to be replaced and basement air (with radon) is sucked upstairs.

I will tell you what I’ve seen.  In one of the houses that my friend owns, I have seen the basement reading 2.3, but the upstairs bedroom reading 6.

The upper level had two times as much as the basement.

The bottom line is this, my friend.

It doesn’t matter whether radon travels up or not.

What matters is this:  Will it reach upstairs.

And it does.

So, don’t just associate radon with basement and brush it off.

Radon in House with No Basement

It doesn’t matter whether your home is new or old.  Big or small.

And get this:

Homes with or without the basement.   Every form, shape, and size of the house in almost all states have been identified to have radon issues.

I will try to reiterate again.

Radon is not a basement issue – however, the basement is where it is very pronounced.

This is must-read guide from EPA for more information on Radon.

Regardless of the house, you must test or Radon. I am not saying this. This is the recommendation from EPA.

Test and see if radon is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.  And treat even if you find the reading to be less than that.

Let me tell you something more as to how serious this is.

EPA Guide shows radon deaths compare to other home related deaths

Look at the chart:

On an average, there are 21,000 deaths due to radon poisoning. That is 7 times more than home fire deaths.

Yet you run to get insurance to protect the house but don’t even test to know the radon levels in the house that you are buying (and living).

You know why – because banks force you to take insurance.   To protect their a$$ets.  They don’t care if you die.

So you take precaution to protect you and your family.

Update: Canada is taking it seriously. Check this – their libraries are giving digital radon detectors and people are lining up.

Radon in Walkout Basement

I know you would have heard radon is not an issue in a walkout basement.  Because you are technically at the ground level and below grade (for the most part).

That is plain wrong.

An average American (non-smoking) is routinely exposed to radon, which is the most carcinogenic substance.

And not all houses have a basement. In fact, as we have seen earlier, it can percolate up without contaminating the basement.

So, be warned.  It doesn’t matter if you are on a slab or crawlspace or have a basement.

You are prone to radon.

Now, why would they say walk-out basement isn’t an issue.

There is some truth to it.

Assuming you are accessing the backdoor in the basement and constantly go back and forth to your yard.

This will make you open the door multiple times and that help ventilate the basement.

That’s the only reason why basement’s at walkout level might have less radon – if the house has a radon issue.

Now, don’t take that easily though.

Even if you consistently use the basement door, what if the amount of ventilation is less than desired.  You will end up with a sub-standard living condition.

Conclusion:

It is easy for anyone to recommend opening windows to get rid of Radon gas and radon decay.  But, it is not that straightforward.

So, any number of reasons as to why radon might not be an issue is probably a false statement.

The only way you can determine is to test for radon and make sure you are protected.

If you do find radon, even with less pCi/L than what EPA recommends, it is wise to solve the issue.

Opening windows is fine, as long as you are going to keep it open always or on a regular routine.

Don’t take radon lightly as it is the second biggest cause of lung cancer, killing more than 21000 people.

The only sure way to protect your family is to test for radon and see the healthiness of the living condition.

If you have radon issue, then ventilate the space well, move the air or a find a system that can do that for me.

You must have a system working 24/7 – nonstop.

Live well!

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