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RADON: The silent killer beneath our feet
It Can Be Prevented
The number two cancer killer in United States kills over 21,000 people every year. It can be stopped within 90 days. It kills more people than drunk drivers do. This is a fact.
The fact also, which gains a lot of well deserved media attention is that the number one contributing killer is cigarette smoking. But, what most people do not realize, is that Radon poisoning is the second leading cause of lung cancer and can be prevented. This is worth sharing and standing on a soap box and shouting! IT CAN BE PREVENTED...
What is Radon?
Without getting into all of the scientific, geological, and medical definitions, Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless poisonous gas that can be inhaled or absorbed. The radioactive particulates attach thesmselves to the lungs when inhaled and to the stomach wall when ingested. It is present in some level in every home and even in your water supply. It comes from the natural decay within the earth and that in itself can not be stopped. It is part of the ecological balance of the world...it is a by product of the earth simply breathing. The trouble is, that even though nature is designed to filter it, we put ourselves in harms way. Radon itself can not be stopped, but the dangerous effects of it can.
It Can Be Stopped
Radon itself can not be stopped but the poisoning effects can be. If Radon is detected, this number two cancer killer can be eliminated.
Radon: Points of Entry
How Do You Get Radon Poisoning?
Radon creeps in, most times, through your basement. As Radon gas comes up through the ground, it will find any crack or crevice to release itself. This is also true of your water supply.
Some areas are more susceptible than others although even in lower risk areas, it can still be present in harmful amounts. On the converse side of that, even in areas that are radically known for high levels of Radon, the risk may be minor. A home next to a home with no Radon presence can be a time bomb waiting to happen. Are you or your children breathing Radon and don't even know it?
Although Radon travels most easily through your foundation, it also comes in through your water supply and can be harmfully breathed, for example, when you take a shower. If there is Radon in your water, the steam you see will contain it. If you drink the water coming out of your spigot, you will ingest it.
EPA Video Radon Facts
How to Know if Radon is Effecting Your Family
Detecting the presence of Radon is simple and economical, in some areas, it is free. You have several options and yes, you can do it yourself. Contact your local American Lung Association for local services and recommendations they offer. Your local agency will also provide you with the statistics related to the location of your home. Share what you have learned to family members and neighbors. Again, Radon poisoning is worth shouting out. If your home test positive for Radon--It is effecting your family. Do the right thing--test!
EPA State by State Map
EPA Testing By State
- State Radon Contact Information | Radon | US Environmental Protection Agency
To find more state-by-state information, visit the EPA site.
If your Radon exposure is High, How to Fix It
If, after you get the results of your Radon test, and if, it turns out high, don't panic...there are some simple things you can do right away to reduce it. Think of your home like a ship in water...the water will seep in through the tiniest of cracks or holes. The following list is not all inclusive but will give you a basic overview of where to begin.
- Look for the obvious first...large cracks in the foundation..seal them.
- Look for pipes coming through walls...seal them
- Check your sump pump hole and cover...if water is coming in, so is Radon...use an airtight lid
- Do your foundation walls get damp?...just like the water...Radon enters the same way...seal your walls
Radon Danger Zones
Radon Danger Zones & How Much is Too Much?
The EPA goes into great detail regarding where Radon is most likely to be found and exposure limits. It is estimated that over 6 million homes currently are exposed to the maximum level of Radon (4 picocuries).
Regardless of what zone you live in, the EPA and the American Lung Association strongly recommend testing in all areas. The average time from testing to eliminating the danger should take no longer than 90 days whether you fix it your self or call in a specialist.
Don't Let Your House Kill You
Before You Buy, Build, or Rent a Home
Before you buy a home, insist on a certified Radon Inspection. The cost is well worth the investment to the health and safety to your family. Again, the keyword here is "certified"...Good Home and Radon Inspectors take this very seriously, they work hard to insure that their reputation is not harmed.
Before you build, make sure that part of the plan involves Radon mitigation right from the start. many building codes are now requiring it. And again, just like buying a home, make sure whatever mitigation installation is done, it is inspected and certified.
Radon Self Help
Ready to take the next step? Below are my recommendations. The first step is to test both your air and water. A great economical place to start.
Radon Self Testing
Below are two recommended radon test kits. Both include prepaid mailers to return the samples you take and also include the lab fees and report. Both offer express shipping options should you need the results quickly for a real estate transfer. Please note, the Radon Water Test kit is designed specifically for homes that have well water. There are also city water testing kits available for the same price. Be wary of any test kit that is not endorsed by the EPA. Both of these are. Both include very clear instructions.
Radon "In Water" Self Test Kit
Radon "In Air" Self Test Kit
24/7 Radon Testing Monitor
I prefer quality reliable electronic Radon measuring devices, especially in areas known for high concentrations or where seasonal changes can effect Radon levels. The monitor I've shown below is highly rated, easy to install, and has optional features to allow you to customize the settings. The other great aspect of using an electronic monitor is that you can relocate it should you move to another home. This model has complete and clear instructions along with a built in self testing feature.
Do It Yourself Radon Mitigation
If, your test results come back in the danger zone, you have two options.
- Call in a specialist for a quote and remediation plan--get more than one quote, check accreditation, and inquire of previous clients.
- Mitigate it yourself. It can be done accurately and at a fraction of the cost.
If you choose to do-it-yourself, the absolute best book on the market for step-by step instructions is: "Protecting Your Home From Radon: A Step By Step Manual for Radon Reduction". It is loaded with very user friendly detail to not only rid your home of radon but how to stop in from entering. This book also provides very helpful advice should you decide to use a contractor.