This popular question got me wondering if there is a simpler way to reduce radon in homes.

Our house has a fairly standard radon mitigation system. It has a lot of parts. There is a hole cut in the basement floor. There is a thick pipe which goes up through all the floors with lots of bends and turns, like the old Microsoft "pipes" screensaver. There is a powerful, always-running fan in the attic pulling the air up and out through a roof vent. There are also other components, such as a manometer and other sensors. It all has to be serviced by technicians.

Like any system with a lot of components and a lot of puncture points through surfaces, there are many points of potential failure.

Why not have a standalone unit in the basement with a fan that blows the air through an electrostatically-charged baffle of gills or fins or whatever, collecting the radon until it decays? At least then it won't end up in the lungs, where it causes the damage.

We could put lead shielding around the unit, if necessary.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting thought. But not all ideas work well. How much radon would a filter capture? Do regulations affect how you would dispose of radioactive waste? I don't know any specific reason why this wouldn't work. But since it isn't used, I suspect there must be one. I am sure it has occurred to people interested in radon mitigation. $\endgroup$
    – mmesser314
    May 22 at 15:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @mmesser314 — "But not all ideas work well." I've had a number of such ideas! $\endgroup$
    – SlowMagic
    May 22 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


The radon is not electrically charged, nor does it form polarizable molecules which can be attracted by an electrostatic filter. Radon is a noble gas, like helium or argon, and is very challenging to extract from the air.

The linked question discusses the accumulation of radon’s decay products in dust and on dust-attracting surfaces. But the health risk of a radon-heavy environment is that the radon itself will enter the body via the lungs, and that the decay chain will occur internally, where the ionizing decay products will interfere with biological processes that are not expecting ions. The heavy-metal dust/vapor might also enter the lungs, but because the radon is longer-lived, its atoms are more numerous than its decay products.

Really the best way to reduce radon concentration is to thoroughly mix the radon-enhanced air with ordinary radon-depleted air from outside. It sounds like your system has some short timescale for moving all of the air from your basement to a vent above your roof, on the assumption that the basement will not be evacuated but instead will pull in fresh air from outdoors by some route.

  • $\begingroup$ (+1) If it was just a matter of collecting the dust, etc., then the Cottrell precipitator already exists: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrostatic_precipitator. $\endgroup$
    – Ed V
    May 22 at 15:21
  • $\begingroup$ Re, "the health risk of a radon-heavy environment is that the radon itself will enter the body via the lungs,..." That's not how I heard the story. The story that I heard said that the electrically charged decay products are attracted to microscopic dust particles that lodge in your lungs. $\endgroup$ May 22 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ @SolomonSlow I've heard that version too. My quantitative question is about the relative timescales for dust adhesion versus other mechanisms for neutralization. $\endgroup$
    – rob
    May 22 at 23:08

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