Do you have Radon in your home? That is the question that all homeowners in should know the answer to. The upper Midwest has some of the highest concentrations of radon in the country and that’s why home owners or home buyers for that matter should be aware. Most people don’t think they have radon because they can’t smell it, taste it, see it or touch it. It is silent and it is deadly.
So what is Radon? Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can penetrate your home and cause serious health risks to the whole family. Most soils contain uranium that, over time, decays to produce radium and polonium. Eventually, polonium is released with the radon, which creates a high toxicity level in the air and water that it infuses.
There is no model for how radon enters the house it is very persistent and most commonly enters the home through cracks in the slab, floor-wall joints exposed soil and sometimes even water from a well.
Exposure to radon gas increases your risk of developing lung cancer. According to the EPA an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States are due to radon exposure, which makes it the second leading cause of lung cancer following smoking. Radon gas and its decay products in the air are breathed into the lungs where they break down further and emit alpha particles. Alpha particles release a small burst of energy, which is absorbed by nearby lung tissue. This results in lung cell damage. While the effects of smoking cigarettes are far more recognizable when compared to the effects of radon exposure, there is very little separating the severity of these two potential dangers. How can smoking cigarettes be compared to radon exposure? Check this out!
1 pCi/L of radon is equal to 2.5 cigarettes a day! Multiply a home’s radon levels by 2.5 and understand that any homeowner could easily experience the effects of smoking a “pack a day” if the radon levels are at 4.0 pCi/L– the minimum action level established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
So now you know that radon is no joke, but how do find out if you have radon in your home. That’s the easy part. The American Lung Association, the EPA, and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes for radon. Testing for radon is simple and relatively inexpensive.
There are several ways to test, but these three are probably the most common:
-A short-term kit allows you to get a basic reading in 48 hours, it’s like a quick snap shot of your situation. Radon test kits can be bought from your local Lowes or Hardware store. Once the test is done you simply mail the kit to the lab and they mail you the results.
-A CRM test stands for Continuous Radon Monitoring and this is done by contacting your local state certified HUD Radon testing and radon mitigation specialist. You can find one on your county health department website. In this test they will set a small electronic monitor, a little smaller than a shoe box and garnish the results for you in 48 hours. This test is more live a movie rather than a snap shot because it takes a reading every hour and comes up with a pretty solid range.
-A Long-term tests remain in your home for more than 90 days. Alpha track and electric detectors are commonly used for this type of testing. A long-term test will give a more accurate annual average radon level than a short-term test for your home. The short-term and CRM method of testing are probably are more commonly used during the buying or selling of a home.
After all the testing is done and your radon levels are at 4.0 pCi/L– the minimum action level established by the Environmental Protection Agency or higher, radon mitigation will be the next step. Radon mitigation is a simple process typically, but should be done by a state certified radon professional. Each radon mitigation system design varies depending on the structure of your home. Homes are generally categorized according to their foundation design. The existence of a basement, crawl space, or slab all determines the proper mitigation system needed. These systems will typically cost from $900.00-$1,500.00 depending on your needs.
The radon levels in the Upper Mid-West are very high, but the effects of radon can be detected and mitigated to help reduce the risk of lung cancer for you and your family. Remember to test your house and get it taken care of as soon as possible. Radon deaths can be reduced, but only if you help.