Is Radon a Health Hazard in Your Home?

Millions of American homes have elevated radon levels. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. It is estimated that 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States are linked to radon. While there has been no evidence that children are at greater risk than adults, there is a much higher risk for smokers who are exposed to radon.

What It Is

Radon is an extremely toxic, colorless and odorless, radioactive gas derived from the breakdown of uranium inside the earth. The average indoor radon level is 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), while the average outdoor level is 0.4 pCi/L. The EPA recommends that Americans consider fixing their homes when the radon level is between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L.

Testing for Radon

Testing your home for radon is easy and inexpensive. A variety of test kits are available for purchase by mail and in retail stores. When buying or selling a home, you may want to have the testing done by a qualified tester. There are short-term and long-term “do-it-yourself” test kits. Short-term tests remain in your home anywhere from 2 to 90 days; long-term tests remain in the home for more than 90 days, and are more likely to give you the average year-round level of radon than the short-term tests.

Lowering Radon Levels

There are several methods for reducing radon levels in your home. Soil suction is generally considered to be the most reliable, as it draws the radon from the earth below the house and vents it out through pipes, preventing it from ever entering. The EPA recommends that you contact your state radon office to find a qualified radon mitigation contractor to fix your home. Typically the cost of radon mitigations are comparable to other common home repairs.

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