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Radon safety in basement

  1. Apr 23, 2016 #1
    Hi, my friend near me, has a basement and we are located in a part of our country that is NOT KNOWN if it has high soil radon concentrations. However our area is not listed in the high concentrations areas.

    His basement floor is about 3 meters from top ground and has reinforced concrete walls (20cm thick) and reinforced concrete floor (about 60cm thick), both having iron bars armatures inside the concrete. The floor and the walls are joined together so the whole construction is more like a solid single piece of concrete all around the basement perimeter and floor, with no cracks in the joints to allow something to pass from the soil nearby inside the basement.

    He needs to know if he is in danger because or radon, based on the above mentioned things.

    I have a small cheap ($40) russian wearable dosimeter that can detect radioactivity from these old watches and I did some measurements in his basement and did not find any traces of radioactivity (at least with this meter). Wouldn't I be able to detect something even with this simple dosimeter if radon was there?
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  3. Apr 23, 2016 #2


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  4. Apr 23, 2016 #3
    The main concern of radon is that if inhaled will expose the lungs cells to the alpha particle that radon emits. These particle carry a large amount of energy which is deposited in a very short distance concentrating the biological effect. The alpha particles have a very short range and typically can be stopped by material as thin as paper so the radiation will be contained by the concrete. So the main concern is leakage. Typically alpha particles cannot be detected by the usual personal dosimeter or GM counter. If you want to assess the possibility of a leak in the basement there are commercial products that have a substance that absorbs radon. This device is placed in the suspected area for a period of time perhaps a month afterwards it is assessed for radioactivity by detecting and gamma radiation that would be emitted.
  5. Apr 23, 2016 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Maybe, maybe not. As pointed out, the risk is in alphas, and depedning on the design, the dosimeter may or may not detect them. There are also four betas in the chain.

    Given that a test kit costing $10-15 can get you the right answer, why are you messing around with some ancient Russian gadget?
  6. Apr 23, 2016 #5
    I was not aware of the radon test kits, I will buy one. I see there are two of them the long term one and the short term one (a few days). I think I am going to tell my friend to close the basement doors for a few days and put the kit inside.
    However his basement is new (about 5 years old) and there are no cracks.
    I forgot to mention that there are no sinks or holes drilled in the basement walls. The only hole to the concrete is a small nail where it is used as a hanger. This penetrates the 20cm wall only about a few cm (2-3). I see no signs of colot transformation on the wall at this place, which would indicate water comming in.
    All the cabling is inside plastic channels that just touch the wall. The only hole the wall has, is above ground level, by the window, where the cabling goes out to the rest of his house.
    It is really a solid box out of concrete.
    Do you think it will block radon gas, or this gas can penetrate through 20cm concrete??
  7. Apr 23, 2016 #6

    jim mcnamara

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    Science is about about testing and getting results. Someone here can very definitely tell you about what you have AFTER you do run your radon test kit around the track, so to speak.

    What you are asking for is speculation. Not on PF. Please. Do your test first, worry later. We would like to know the result, too.
    We do know:

    Air infiltration also occurs - radon gas tends to sink in an undisturbed air column. Radon can build up from ambient air movement, down through the floor above, for example.

    Active replacement of basement air by ventilation from outside sources of clean air prevents radon buildup. Period. It may also raise heating/cooling costs.
  8. Apr 23, 2016 #7
    Thanks for your informative link. At last some real tests!

    I am thinking of purchasing the safetysirenpro detector. It is not of extreme quality as it is affected by interference and himudity, whereas some others don't, but I think it will give me an indication. The price is affordable for me.
    If you have any comments on this please let me know to save me some $$$ if it is rubish.
    As said, just an indication will suffice.

    I will post me measurements here when time comes, I think they will be interesting.
  9. Apr 25, 2016 #8
    What kind of building does your friend live in? 20 cm thick concrete basement walls are normal for a house or for a 1 or 2 story apartment building - but those kinds of buildings will also normally have a basement floor that is 10 to 12 cm thick - not 60 cm as you claimed for your friend's home.

    But in response to your question: check out the web sites for your municipal and state|provincial|territorial governments and the health agencies in your area - they may offer testing services. For example, my city will do free testing of my tap water and my provincial health agency will do radon testing and other tests for a small fee.
  10. Apr 25, 2016 #9
    The walls are 20cm concrete and the floor is 60cm concrete, I am an eye witness when they built their house. So much concrete and iron on the base, but this is good for new houses as here is is an earthquake active area. The house is a 2-floor building, so I guess this was a reason.
    I checked an official Greek source http://eeae.gr/en/radon-map and in my area, it shows a measurement of 56.81 Bq/m^3.
    Now, I do not know how many measurements and were they did them. It may be that this is the "general" case for the soil in our area, but may not. However, it is good the measurements did not exceed the limits. In the close areas the readings are ok as well as seen in the map.
  11. Apr 26, 2016 #10


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    Concrete is porous and at least in my area, slab floors must have a perimeter drain trench and sump. Radon can get in; my house has it.

    The abatement system works by literally sucking the radon from under the slab. In my area, slabs are required to have that capability built in, since you can't easily tell ahead of time how much radon you will get.
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