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Should You Worry About Radon Gas?

Updated on August 14, 2012

A Radon Test Kit

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This article is not intended to scare you, but to get your attention. As the saying goes, you have enough to worry about. But radon gas is potentially dangerous, and it makes sense to learn a few things about it. The bad news is that radon can be very dangerous. The good news is that it is easy to detect and can be eliminated.

Radon occurs naturally. It is a radioactive gas that results from the breakdown of uranium. This occurs in water, rocks and soil. It can get into your house because the air pressure in a home is less than the air pressure on the outside. This acts like a vacuum, drawing the gas into the house.

Any substance that infiltrates your house and can be dangerous to your health and that of your family is something that you should act on. Whether it's asbestos, radon or any other harmful element, don't just think about it; do something. Radon, as you will see shortly, is one of those elements that does not belong in your home.

Breathing Easier

How Bad is Radon?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the government organization in charge of worrying about things. And the EPA worries about radon. Here's why. Radon is second only to cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer. It causes an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths per year. That is worrisome. But, as the EPA says, "Radon is a health hazard with a simple solution." And the solution is to test for the gas and, if necessary, mitigate it. It's easier to get rid of radon than it is to give up smoking.

To appreciate just how much of a problem radon can be,watch the above video.

Long Island, NY - Radon is a minor issue, but get tested anyway

Where is Radon Most Prevalent?

The EPA publishes a county by county radon map, which shows the United States broken down into three radon zones, with number one being the counties where radon is most prevalent. The EPA was mandated to create this map by the Indoor Radon Abatement Act of 1988. A glance at the map shows you that the Northeast, Upper Midwest and the Rocky Mountain states have higher concentrations of radon. But the EPA goes on to warn you not to use the map to figure out if you have a radon problem in your home: get a test. In some areas of the country a radon test is standard practice when getting a home inspection. I spoke to Steve La Rosa, CEO of Rodan Enterprises, a prominent home inspection firm on New York's Long Island (no, Rodan has nothing to do with radon). He told me that radon is not an issue on most of Long Island, except for its rocky north shore. But in nearby Westchester county, with its hills forming the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, radon testing is an everyday thing. As the EPA notes, radon has been found in all three zones.

Take the Quiz

Have you ever had your home tested for radon gas?

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Testing for Radon

Help for radon testing is all around. You can even do it yourself, and sometimes it won't cost anything. The National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University provides test kits that you can buy online at www.sosradon.org. Or you can call 1-800-SOS-RADON (1-800-767-7236). If you don't trust yourself with matters technical, you can find a list of local test and mitigation providers by a Google search or by checking the EPA website. The gas is measured by a standard known as picocuries per liter. A level of four or higher is considered high, and a mitigation project should be commenced.

How Do You Get Rid of Radon?

Start with the assumption that you don't mitigate the radon, a radon mitigation contractor does. Just what method will be used depends on the construction of your house, and whether it's built on a slab foundation, has a crawlspace or a basement. Some techniques treat the radon after it enters the house. Another method is to take it out of the soil before it infiltrates the building. The radon is then let out into the atmosphere where is disperses harmlessly.

Radon mitigation can be a complicated job, and it's best left to professionals. They will help you to determine if your foundation should be sealed or whether the house should be pressurized to prevent the gas from being sucked inside. Different ventilation methods will also be explored.

Radon gas is a serious issue, but fortunately one that is easily handled. You need to take the first step. Either test for it yourself or hire a specialist. A pleasant side benefit to testing and, if necessary, mitigating the radon, is that you will be given a certificate which you can pass on to a potential buyer. Anything that improves the value of a home is a good thing, especially if it improves the health of the people who live in the house.

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    • the rawspirit profile image

      Robert Morgan 

      3 years ago from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Scottsdale AZ

      This is a really good article. We just lost a close friend to lung cancer. She never smoked. In the mist of her lung cancer she found out that she had Radon gas coming up from her basement. Thanks for letting people know the dangers. Blessings.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very informative my friend and a must read! Thank you for educating us on this potentially dangerous subject.

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