St. Louis Earthquake, Cracks in Foundation & Radon Gas

5.2 Earthquake and Radon

Hey Readers,

Since the recent earthquake here in St. Louis, I’ve received calls from folks who are concerned about cracks that have formed in their homes. Earthquakes instill a fear in all of our hearts that the structural integrity of our home might be compromised. For larger earthquakes, that is a very real and serious concern. When we experience a medium intensity quake, as we did this week, typically the only damage is minor cracking of foundation walls, and basement slabs, as well as cracking of masonry. Occasionally, we’ll see some loosening of fasteners or cracks in drywall and plaster (although more serious damage is certainly possible.)

For example, yesterday I inspected some new cracks in the basement of a home in O’Fallon, MO. The cracks were relatively narrow (about the width of a penny), and ran for about 8 feet across the basement floor. Cracks like this are somewhat common, whether the home has experienced an earthquake or not, and for most people the biggest concern is water infiltration from under the slab. Home inspectors see cracks of this nature all the time, and they aren’t indicative of a problem with the structural integrity of the home. If they were larger or offset a little that might change the diagnosis. If you are unsure, you could always ask a professional to evaluate them for you.

The greater concern for most people in the St. Louis area, regardless of any cracking or not, may be the risk of radon gas entering the home. If you’ve read some of my blog posts on radon, you will know that the risk of having elevated radon is dependent upon three things: source, proximity, & pathway. In other words, in order for radon gas to enter a home, there must be a uranium/radium source relatively close to the home, along with a pathway underground for the radon gas to travel to our homes. When we have any changes under and around our homes, whether it is due to construction, an earthquake, or something else, it can easily modify the “pathway” or flow of the radon gas. A home that previously (or even recently) tested low, might today test very high.

While the EPA recommends homes be tested every two years, and for every real-estate transaction, you may wish to have your home re-tested for your own peace of mind.

Use the category list in the left sidebar to read my other blog posts about radon gas. You may also find some of my FREE downloadable pdf files useful, such as How to Prepare for a Radon Test and a general information flyer titled Radon Gas.

Mark Nahrgang is the owner of Kingdom Inspection Network Group – St. Louis and is a professional NACHI certified building inspector in the St. Louis metro area. Mark performs home inspections as well as commercial inspections throughout St. Louis and St. Charles County.

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One Response

  1. Thank you so much Mark for explaining that any movement in the earth may make a change in the pathway for radon to enter into their homes. I was just in Southern Illinois, Marion, at the Respiratory Rally at John A Logen College and explained that fact to some doctors and attendees. Some people are not aware that the radioactive alpha particles from radon can be inhaled into your lungs, attach to the alveoli in the lungs, change the cells’ DNA, multilply and develop lung cancer. I was pleased to know that some of our doctors in Southern IL encourage all their patients to test for radon gas. A free test kit can be received from Illinois Emergency Management Agency by calling or going to the web site.

    Thank goodness Illinois now has the Radon Awareness Act, but more needs to be done.

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