An amazing number of people are not aware of the dangers this gas poses to our health. Odorless, colorless, leaking out of the earth across most of the USA, and causing Cancer! Visit http://www.epa.gov/radon/zonemap.html
for information in your area, for more information on this silent killer. Within the past several years, my parents tried to purchase a number of homes in the Midwest. My father, being both a cancer survivor and asthma sufferer had the Radon levels checked in each of the properties of interest. 5 homes were tested in this region. In each case, the homes were tested to have levels of Radon at least 5 times the maximum level the EPA considers safe. Each of these homes were currently inhabited! My dad's cancer specialist has warned him to be very careful not to ever live in a home with Radon levels above even the lowest levels. I would venture a guess that most of the homes in the region would have tested at unsafe levels, unless they had been retrofitted with a suitable vapor retarder.
What can be done about this? First, people should know that Radon retarders/barriers exist, which will very effectively keep the radon out of the home if installed correctly. Until recent times, most of these products contained layers of foil, and were fairly costly materials. We now have a polyethylene based material called VaporBlock 20Plus which retards Radon, Methane, and is a very effective water vapor and VOC retarder. This product utilizes new technology in plastic sheeting which has a much tighter cell structure. This tighter cell structure will not allow the gas particles, with very small particle sizes to pass through the membrane. These gasses readily pass through common vapor retarders used to build most homes today, and certainly the products used a decade or more ago in most parts of the country. In fact, throughout most of the USA today, the least expensive plastic sheeting known to man, often called Visqueen, C&A film, or Construction and Agricultural grade polyethylene sheeting is all that is specified as an under-slab or under-basement vapor retarder. In many areas, nothing has been used!
We do not recommend this grade of polyethylene sheeting for use as a moisture/vapor retarder or barrier. I personally firmly believe that engineered films should be used for this purpose, and highly recommend the VaporBlock 20 plus. The cost difference is very small, and the performance difference is so significant. It truly is our health at risk. These gases we cannot see can and do cause us great harm. In many cases, homeowners can install these materials themselves to retrofit their homes and make them much safer. In all cases, contractors can use these engineered products to ward off this problem for the home's future occupants. I always urge homebuilders to at least offer this kind of a product to home buyers as an option. The problem is that not nearly enough people know about the problem or the solution.
I hear that one in four of us will have cancer in our lifetimes. I wonder how many cases could be avoided is such simple procedures as using or installing a good quality vapor retarder under our homes were used? The technology is here, and the fix is quite easy. Please tell your family and friends about this, have your home tested, install radon alarms, make a difference in your children's lives!