Radon in Your Home: A Silent Threat
Do you have Radon in your home? That is the question that all homeowners should know the answer to. The upper Midwest has some of the highest concentrations of radon in the country, and that's why homeowners 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 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, creating 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.
Health Risks and Exposure
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, making 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, causing lung cell damage.
While the effects of smoking cigarettes are more recognizable than the effects of radon exposure, there is very little separating the severity of these two potential dangers. Surprisingly, 1 pCi / L of radon is equal to 2.5 cigarettes a day! Homeowners could easily experience the effects of smoking a "pack a day" if radon levels are at 4.0 pCi / L—the minimum action level established by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Testing for Radon
Now that you know that radon is no joke, how do you find out if you have radon in your home? The American Lung Association, the EPA, and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes for radon, and testing is simple and relatively inexpensive.
There are several ways to test:
Short-term Kit: Allows you to get a basic reading in 48 hours, providing a quick snapshot of your situation. Kits can be bought from local home improvement stores, and results are mailed back after the test.
CRM Test (Continuous Radon Monitoring): Conducted by a local state-certified Radon testing and mitigation specialist, this test uses a small electronic monitor that records results over 48 hours, providing a more dynamic reading.
Long-term Tests: Remain in your home for more than 90 days, using alpha track and electric detectors for more accurate annual average radon levels.
Mitigating Radon Levels
After testing, if radon levels are at 4.0 pCi / L or higher, radon mitigation is the next step. Radon mitigation is a simple process but should be done by a state-certified radon professional. Each mitigation system design varies depending on the structure of your home, categorized by the existence of a basement, crawl space, or slab. Mitigation systems typically cost between $900.00-$1,500.00 depending on your needs.
The radon levels in the Upper Midwest 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.