Radon is a dangerous gas that rises into the living areas of your home. It is the number one reason for lung cancer among non-smokers and the number-two reason for smokers. You can reduce the radon levels in a home by using radon mitigation systems. But can using ceiling fans reduce radon?
Ceiling fans can reduce radon levels by 50%. If used along with positive ion generators, ceiling fans are capable of reducing radon levels by 90%. This is achieved by a phenomenon called plate-out, which neutralizes radio-active particles.
But how do ceiling fans reduce radon levels? Won’t they just spread the radon gas around the room instead of reducing its levels?
How do ceiling fans reduce radon?
The most common radon mitigation method used is sub-slab-depressurization, where the radon gas is removed from under the house even before it enters the home. This is the method that is suggested by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). This system can cost you up to $1500 for installation. But there are some cheaper mitigation methods, and one of them is using ceiling fans.
To know how a ceiling fan reduces radon levels, you should first understand how radon affects your lungs. The villain here is not the radon gas itself but the radioactive nuclides emitted during its decay. The half-life period of Radon is 3.8 days ie, 50% of the gas will get decayed within that time span. When radon decays, it produces other radioactive elements collectively known as radon daughters. These radon daughters decay and emit radiation much faster than radon; within minutes. When these daughter particles are inhaled and decay inside the lungs, the lining of the lungs is affected, leading to cancer.
Unlike Radon, radon daughters get attached to duct particles, the room’s walls, furniture, and everything like they get attached to the lungs when inhaled. Being attached to dust particles and other parts of the room prevents these particles from being inhaled, thus reducing the lungs’ exposure to radiation.
A ceiling fan reduces radon levels by circulating the radon daughters throughout the room, causing them to attach themselves to more surfaces, thus reducing their chances of getting inhaled. The dust particles they attach to may be breathed in, but such particles have only a 3% chance of staying in the lungs compared to the 50% chance of unattached radon daughters.
Don’t radon daughters emit radiation when they are attached to the things in the room?
Radon daughters decay in a matter of minutes, and they emit radiation during their decay. They emit alpha, beta, and gamma particles when decaying. It is the alpha particles that affect the lungs. Any surfaces, even your clothing, stop these particles. So all the energy released by the alpha particles is absorbed by clothing or the skin, which are mostly unaffected by such radiations. However, the lungs’ linings are not so protected or resistant, so the alpha emissions from the decay of radon daughters inside the lungs cause lung cancer.
How effective are ceiling fans in reducing radon levels
Ceiling fans can considerably reduce radon levels when the levels are low. If the levels are above 14 or more, I recommend using depressurization systems.
As per the tests done, a good ceiling fan can reduce radon levels by as much as 95% when coupled with a positive ion generator. The fan should be able to circulate air throughout the room to achieve high levels of reduction.
The practicality of ceiling fans
Is it practical to keep our house safe from radon using ceiling fans alone? Most houses have ceiling fans in their livable areas. You don’t have to run the fans 24/7 to reduce the risk of radon. You need to do that only when you are in the room. Since the radiation from the radon daughter particles is short-lived, your lungs won’t get exposed to high radiation.
Ceiling fans are a much cheaper option to reduce radon levels when compared to depressurization systems pushed by radon companies. It is important to note that it is the constant exposure to radon that causes lung cancer; inhaling radon while walking down your hallway is not going to cause it. I recommend using ceiling fans and testing for radon levels before deciding to install a costly mitigation system.
Will a ceiling fan affect radon test results?
Running a ceiling fan will affect radon test results. The wind from the fan can move the radon away from the test kit, depending on where it is placed. This will give inaccurate test results.
The how can you know radon levels when using ceiling fans?
This can be achieved by using continuous radon monitoring systems like Corentium detectors which constantly record radon levels. Unlike a charcoal test kit, these monitors are unaffected by wind, so they can give accurate test results even when ceiling fans are run.
If ceiling fans can work, why don’t a whole house attic fan reduce radon levels?
Ceiling fans reduce radon levels by increasing the ‘plate-out’ of radon daughter particles by increasing the air circulation in the room. A whole house fan too can increase the air circulation, but they cannot lower radon levels.
Whole house fans cannot lower radon levels because they create a negative pressure in the house. They act as a vacuum, sucking all the air out of the house. This causes more radon gas to seep into the house. So instead of reducing radon levels, a whole house fan actually increases them.
Do using air filters reduce radon?
Using air filters actually increases radon exposure. Since air filters remove the dust inside the house, it practically reduces the surfaces to which radon daughters can attach. This increases the level of breathable radon daughters in the air causing more of them to end up in the lungs.
For further info, please check this article: Do air purifiers reduce radon.