What exactly do we measure?

Since 1986, femto-TECH has specialized in the detection and measurement of ionizing radiations such as radon & tritium. Starting in the government arena, then moving to the commercial and private sectors, we have established ourselves as a premier manufacturer of quality radiation detection instrumentation.

What is Ionizing Radiation?

Ionizing radiation is a type of energy released by atoms that travels in the form of electromagnetic waves (gamma or X-rays) or particles (neutrons, beta or alpha). The spontaneous disintegration of atoms is called radioactivity, and the excess energy emitted is a form of ionizing radiation. Unstable elements which disintegrate and emit ionizing radiation are called radionuclides. All radionuclides are uniquely identified by the type of radiation they emit, the energy of the radiation, and their half-life. - World Health Organization

What effect does it have on me?

Beyond certain thresholds, radiation can impair the functioning of tissues and/or organs and can produce acute effects such as skin redness, hair loss, radiation burns, or acute radiation syndrome. These effects are more severe at higher doses and higher dose rates.

With that being said, even at lower exposures the risk to your health is very real. Exposure to low amounts of ionizing radiation over a long period of time can compound the risk of certain diseases and cancers. Many people fail to realize that naturally occurring sources of radiation are prevalent all throughout the world and are affecting us even in our own homes.

Watch a brief video from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

Radon

Where does it come from?

Radon is an invisible, odorless, tasteless, radioactive gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. It is the product of decaying uranium found in the soil, rocks, and water all around the world. As a gas, it moves up through the ground and into the air above. It seeps into your home or business through any cracks or holes present in the building's foundation, or even through your well water. Once it makes it inside your building it becomes trapped, subjecting all residents to exposure.

How does it affect myself & family?

Depending on the levels of radon in your home or workplace, with every breath you take you could be subjecting yourself to an increased risk of lung cancer. This risk is especially high for inhabitants that also smoke. The longer your exposure, the higher the risk is to you. This also means if exposed continually starting at a young age, children are at a higher risk of lung cancer as they grow into adulthood.

What can I do to prevent myself & family from exposure?

The EPA & Surgeon General recommend that everyone tests their home. The majority of Americans spend most of their time at home, which means you and your family are likely to receive your greatest radiation exposure at home. Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. While cheap radon measurement devices will give you a rough idea of how much radon is in your home, they are only effective long-term and are not sensitive enough to truly determine whether or not remediation is needed. femto-TECH's continuous radon monitors are among the most sensitive & feature packed available to professional radon testers today. If you are in need of a test, call your local radon tester and ask them if they are using a femto-TECH CRM.

The action level of radon concentration set by the EPA is 4.0 pCi/l. Once you have had your test completed, as long as you are under this level you have no pressing need to mitigate you home. If above 4.0 pCi/l, mitigation by a professional installer is recommended.

What does mitigation mean?

Mitigation is the process used in which to reduce the levels of radon in your home or building. There are a variety of mitigation methods used depending on the construction type of the building in question. Cost for mitigation is usually within the normal realm of pricing for other home repairs. Most mitigation methods include the sealing of any cracks or openings present in the foundation that could be a culprit for leakage. Examples of common methods for mitigation are listed below.

Active Subslab Suction

The most common and usually the most reliable radon reduction method. One or more suction pipes are inserted through the floor slab into the crushed rock or soil underneath. They also may be insterted below the concrete slab from outside the home. The number and location of suction pips that are needed is dependent on how easily air can move in the crushed rock or soil under the slab and on the overall strength of the radon source. Often, only a single suction point is needed.

Submembrane Suction

An effective method to reduce radon levels in crawlspace homes involves covering the earth floor with a high-density plastic sheet. A vent pipe and fan are used to draw the radon from under the sheet and vent it to the outdoors. This form of soil suction is called submembrane suction, and when properly applied is the most effective way to reduce radon levels in crawlspace homes.

House Pressurization

House or room pressurization uses a fan to blow air into the basement, or living area from either upstairs or outdoors. It attempts to create enough pressure at the lowest level indoors — in a basement, for example — to prevent radon from entering into the home. The effectiveness of this technique is limited by home construction, climate, other appliances in the home and occupant lifestyle. In order to maintain enough pressure to keep radon out, the doors and windows at the lowest level must not be left opened, except for normal entry and exit. This approach generally results in more outdoor air being introduced into the home, which can cause moisture intrusion and energy penalties

Heat Recovery Ventilator

A heat recovery ventilator, or HRV, also called an air-to-air heat exchanger, can be installed to increase ventilation, which will help reduce the radon levels in your home. An HRV will increase ventilation by introducing outdoor air while using the heated or cooled air being exhausted to warm or cool the incoming air. HRVs can be designed to ventilate all or part of your home, although they are more effective in reducing radon levels when used to ventilate only the basement. If properly balanced and maintained, they ensure a constant degree of ventilation throughout the year.

Tritium

What is tritium?

Tritium is the only radioactive isotope of hydrogen and it is commonly represented by the chemical symbol H-3, ³H, or simply T. Being radioactive causes tritium to undergo a process of radioactive decay. During this decay process, the tritium atom transforms into a nonradioactive helium atom and, in the process, emits a form of ionizing radiation known as a beta particle. The emission of this beta particle during the decay process is what makes tritium a potentially hazardous material.

Where does it come from?

Tritium exists throughout our worldwide environment in the atmosphere, ground water, soil, rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans from both natural and man-made production. It is generated naturally in the atmosphere through interactions between nitrogen in the air and radiations originating from outer space, known as cosmic rays. Tritium is also produced by man-made nuclear reactions. These are generally limited to those that occur within a nuclear reactor, during the detonation of a nuclear weapon, or in particle accelerators. Tritium’s concentration in the environment is ever-changing, increasing with natural processes and human activities and decreasing through radioactive decay.

Biological & Health Effects

The half-life of tritium is 12.3 years; for a given amount of tritium, half the atoms will undergo radioactive decay (emitting the beta particle discussed above) in 12.3 years. The beta particle that is emitted by tritium has a very low energy. As a result, these particular beta particles can only travel about 6 millimeters (mm) in air. A typical beta particle not from tritium can travel a meter or more. In human tissue, tritium’s beta particle cannot penetrate the typical thickness of the dead layer of skin that exists on the outside of the human body. For this reason, the beta particle emitted by tritium is generally only considered to be hazardous if a large quantity of tritium is, or has the potential to be, taken into the body by inhalation, skin absorption, and ingestion of tritiated water. Tritium mostly behaves just like ordinary water in the body, distributing equally throughout the body’s water and excreted in the same ways as water, such as in the forms of urine and sweat.

Tritium does not have chemically toxic effects and its potential to be hazardous to human health is solely because it emits ionizing radiation (the beta particle). This radiation exposure may very slightly increase the probability that a person will develop cancer during his or her lifetime. However, it is important to understand that an individual’s cancer risk is affected by many factors, including heredity (passed down from your parents and grandparents), lifestyle, smoking, and numerous environmental factors, of which radiation exposure is one of many. The rate of cancer is also considerable, with approximately 45% of individuals being diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes (ACS 2020). It is also important to note that everyone is exposed to radiation every day and, on average, the vast majority of an individual’s radiation exposure in the United States results from medical procedures and naturally occurring radiation. In fact, humans have always been exposed to radiation and our bodies have mechanisms that act to repair damage to our cells that is caused by radiation. While it has been determined that exposure to high levels of ionizing radiation can cause cancer, this effect has not been observed for lower doses on the order of background radiation doses, including with tritium (HPS 2019).

Detection

Ionizing radiation can be detected using instruments, but since tritium emits only a very weak beta particle it is very difficult to detect with normal radiation-detection instrumentation. In fact, the most common portable radiation-detection instruments, such as Geiger counters, are usually not capable of detecting tritium. The most reliable and widespread method for detecting tritium is known as liquid scintillation counting, typically available only in laboratory spaces. Tritium can also be “sniffed” or introduced into an ionization chamber that can measure radiation dose rates. The difficulty in detecting tritium has led the EPA and NRC to limit tritium releases, as discussed above.

Information provided by the Health Physics Society's Tritium Facts Sheet

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