What is radon? Why care?

Around 12,000 years ago (bear with us), during the last Ice Age, a 500 trillion gallon flood raged through Portland (that’s 1,000 times as much water each second as the Columbia today — at speeds as fast as modern freeways). The Missoula Floods are a great bit of Portland lore if you want to impress your Pacific Northwest friends over an IPA sometime. These floods shaped the Willamette Valley and left behind a granite-infused sediment that is relatively high in uranium. Radon is a byproduct created by the breakdown of uranium.

Radon exists everywhere, but we have a higher incidence here in Portland. The colorless, odorless gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. It is generally harmless outdoors as it is widely dispersed, but it can accumulate in the closed spaces of buildings (especially basements) over time.

In light of this, it’s a good idea to have any home you’re looking at purchasing (as well as your current home) tested for this invisible, dangerous gas.

Test for Radon in 3 Steps

Testing for radon is an relatively inexpensive and simple process. There are many radon testing companies, but we trust and recommend the good people at Precision Radon Testing to all of our clients. Give them a call to schedule an appointment and they’ll take care of the rest. The process takes a couple of days and you’ll get in-site results.

What if my home has Radon accumulation?

If your home has levels of radon accumulation over 4.0 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter), you’ll need to have a mitigation system installed. That basically means that there are about 9 atoms of radon decaying in one liter of air per minute. The layout of your home and the cause of accumulation (cracks in the foundation, gaps in construction joints, etc.) will determine the exact structure of the mitigation system. Contact a radon specialist such as Ecotech to set up a consultation. A specialist will consider the aesthetics of  your home and create a system that will get rid of radon without being intrusive.

We can’t tell you exactly what an individual home’s mitigation system will look like, but there is a general recipe for removing radon.

  • Sealing of foundation cracks and openings.
  • A primary mitigation system involving a vent pipe system and fan.

Ecotech does a good job of making sure sure the mitigation system blends with the design of your house. They will aso ensure that the system runs at maximum efficiency to keep energy costs low.

Radon Facts and Resources

Radon should be taken seriously, but it is a relatively inexpensive and easy threat to eliminate. Take a look below for some radon facts and links to resources.


  • Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US aside from smoking (those who smoke have an increased risk of cancer when exposed).
  • One in every four houses in the Portland area accumulates radon.
  • Radon levels are higher in the winter, the best time to test.
  • Mitigation systems can reduce levels by 99%.
  • Though it is a radioactive gas, radon will probably not cause the zombie apocalypse.

New Radon Numbers Highlight Portland Area Health Risk

Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction – Environmental Protection Agency

Radon Levels in Portland Area by Zipcode (a longterm study done at PSU)

Lidar Map Shows Path of Missoula Floods that Shaped Oregon’s Backyards

Testing & Mitigation Services

Radon testing: Precision Radon Measurement

Radon mitigation system installation: Ecotech

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