Radon. While maybe not as well-known as it cousins carbon monoxide or natural gas, this colorless, odorless, tasteless gas is just as deadly. Produced naturally from the decay of uranium in soil, rock, and water, it has been proven to be the second leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking. Studies show that radon can also cause emphysema, hardening of lung tissue, pneumonia, and chromosomal irregularities that lead to birth defects.
You don’t have to live near a power plant or travel to a foreign country to have exposure to radon. It’s a naturally occurring element that is produced right in the ground underneath your home. Because it’s a gas, it travels up through cracks and holes in the foundation of your home, through floor drains, sump pumps, construction joints, and even those tiny little cracks or pores in hollow-block walls. Radon can be found in any type of building at any time of the year. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General’s office, radon in the home is responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
The EPA National Residential Radon Survey shows elevated radon levels are regularly present in about six million homes throughout the United States. An elevated radon level would be anything at or above 4 pCi/L (picocurries per liter). According to the EPA, the average indoor radon concentration for America’s homes is about 1.3 pCi/L. If you find that the level of radon in your home is at or above 4 pCi/L (picocurries per liter) you should consult a professional and identify a proper radon reduction strategy for your home. The average cost of radon mitigation in a typical home can vary depending on the solution you choose, but generally does not exceed many repairs / home maintenance costs that you may have had to tackle as a homeowner in the past.
Testing your home is the only way to know what your home’s radon levels are. There are no immediate symptoms that will alert you to the presence of radon and it typically takes years of exposure before any problems surface. Keep in mind that elevated radon levels have been discovered in every state. According to radon.com, an average of 1 in every 5 homes has elevated radon levels. Visit the site to see levels for your state. There is no need to panic or move to another state – this is not that kind of problem. It is, however, something that you should test for and address if necessary. If, after having your home tested, you find that your home does have a high concentration of radon, there are ways to reduce it to acceptable levels for less than $500. Some common mitigation techniques include:
- Sealing cracks and other openings in your home foundation.
- Sub-slab suction – removes radon laden air from beneath your home’s foundation.
- Improving the ventilation of your house.
- Installing a radon sump system in the basement.
If you want or require the assistance of a professional, there are several resources for you to use. You may utilize the list of certified radon mitigators for your state, you can reference the EPA’s website page on radon testing, or you can reference these helpful resources from the EPA and radon.com.
Have you ever tested your home for radon? How did you deal with the problem?