Radon And The Elements Of An Effective Mitigation System

Posted on: 18 April 2017

Even though you can't see or smell it, radon is a real threat to the lives of home occupants. It is the second-leading cause of lung cancer deaths in the United States, and radon can impact anyone in any area of the nation.

Fortunately, radon exposure can be greatly reduced through the use of proper mitigation measures, thus protecting the lives of residents in affected homes. Below is more information about radon and the essential components of a radon mitigation system.

What is Radon?

Radon is a gaseous element that forms when uranium and thorium, both fairly common radioactive elements, undergo natural decaying processes. Radon moves upward through the soil and is pulled into basements and crawlspaces by the relative vacuum created in these spaces.

In extremely low concentrations, radon is relatively safe for humans. However, when radon reaches 4 picocuries per liter of air, a measurement of the degree of radioactive decay, radon becomes a health threat. Long-term inhalation of the gas at that level or above can greatly increase the risk of lung cancer.

What Can Be Done to Lessen the Exposure Risk?

If testing indicates that radon exposure is unacceptably high, then mitigation should be introduced to lower the level of exposure. A radon mitigation system requires that several components be in place to provide an effective, safe process. Below are a few of these important mitigation components.

Main Vents

The main components in a radon mitigation system are the main vents. Depending on the size and layout of the home, there may be one or more vertical vent pipes. These pipes run from the lowest levels of the home upward and are vented above the roof line.

The main vents are usually constructed of PVC pipe measuring three or four inches in diameter. Vent pipes are routed either through the interior of a home or alongside the exterior, depending on the specific design parameters.

It is important to keep main vents open at the top end to permit maximum vertical air flow. Entering rain will not harm the system, as it will harmlessly drain down the pipe and into the open space at the bottom. However, artificial obstructions, including vent caps or rain guards, could cause the vents to clog or freeze up.


Another key component in a radon mitigation system is its fan. The fan is placed in a strategic location inside the main vent and draws radon-containing air upward into the vent. Sound insulation prevents the fan from creating excess vibrations and noises that might irritate home occupants.

Fans are designed to operate continuously and are also capable of withstanding moisture and temperature extremes. If a fan ceases working, then repair or replacement as as soon as possible is advised.

Suction Points

Suction points are where air containing radon is drawn from the basement or crawl space and are strategically placed by drilling holes in the basement floor or in the crawl space. Suction points are prepared by using plastic membranes to "corral" contaminated air and funnel it toward the points.

To draw contaminated air directly from the suction points, main vents and jumpers are attached at their bottom open ends to the points. These locations prevent radon gas from bypassing the the suction points and inadvertently being allowed to enter the home.


Jumpers are essentially suction point feeders that draw contaminated air from nearby locations inside a home's basement or crawlspace. Jumpers tie into neighboring main vents, and this creates a feeder network of radon-carrying pipes. As a result, this "combining of forces" avoids the expense and complexity of installing additional main vents.

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