The beginning of the year is a time for change. A lot of us make resolutions about getting in shape, being more organized, and just getting things accomplished in general. If you are in the mood for getting your house in order, so to speak, then you will be interested to know this: January is also National Radon Action Month.
We have talked about Radon on the blog before, but we want to take this opportunity to again stress the importance of testing for this deadly gas. If you and your family are exposed to high levels of Radon gas, there is a very serious risk of lung cancer development later on in life. Read on to find out what Radon in, why it is so dangerous, and how you can take action to protect your home from exposure.
What Is Radon?
Radon comes from the element Uranium, which is present naturally in some soils, rocks, and water sources. It is a byproduct of Uranium’s radioactive breakdown process. The word “radioactive” automatically triggers alarm bells in the minds of most people, but the truth is that radioactivity is around us all the time, and usually presents no safety issue. Many byproducts from this type of breakdown only exist for short periods of time – not long enough to cause safety issues in people.
Radon is different – it sticks around. The half-life of Radon is about 96 hours or four days. During that time the Radon gas releases little bursts of energy, and these little bursts are what cause issues within the human body.
Why Is Radon So Dangerous?
The main danger from Radon is that it is a tasteless, odorless, and invisible invader. It enters your home through either ground or water sources, where you and your family either inhale or ingest the gas. This doesn’t sound so bad, right?
Wrong. Those little bursts of energy Radon produces as it decays cause major damage to the human body. Over time, exposure to Radon can lead to lung cancer. In fact, Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., with about 21,000 people dying from Radon-linked cancer annually. At least one study shows that children may be at a higher risk from exposure, due to their increased respiration rate and the fact that their growing bodies have higher cell turnover, which means more cells for the Radon to damage.
What is even more dangerous is that there is no way to know if Radon levels in your home are elevated without testing. There are no short-term indications of a problem, such as shortness of breath, coughing, headaches, or fever. People exposed to high levels of the gas usually feel fine at home, as though nothing is amiss.
How Does Radon Enter Your Home?
About 1 in 15 homes in the U.S. have Radon levels that are considered to be “elevated” by the EPA, although there is really no safe level of Radon. Acceptable levels of the gas are listed at 0.4 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter of air, a measurement used to determine the amount of radioactive matter in a substance), as this is the average amount of Radon existing in outdoor air. At 4.0 pCi/L, the EPA highly suggests homeowners take action to lower the levels in their homes. Even at lower levels, it may be a good idea to find ways to prevent Radon from entering your home in the first place.
These are some of the major entry points for Radon into your home:
- Cracks in foundations, floors, and walls
- Openings around drains and sump pumps
- Construction material joints
- Pipe and water line entries
- Crawl spaces
- Dissolved in water, especially well water
Remember, the age of your home doesn’t matter – Radon can be just as elevated in newer homes as it is in old ones.
So what can you do to protect yourself and your family?
Get Your Home Tested – Testing your home for Radon is easy. Short-term tests are available for purchase at most hardware stores, or order a free testing kit from the Alabama Department of Health. In the event that a short-term test reveals elevated levels of Radon, a long-term test will likely be in order to confirm the results.
Get Radon Problems Fixed – Fixing Radon levels in a home is a relatively low-cost process. The average cost for Radon reduction is around $1200, but the price can vary based on the construction and size of your home.
Most mitigation strategies focus on sealing cracks and openings to prevent the gas from entering your home, as well as on using an exhaust system to move Radon that may be present in the soil away from the main structure. A professional with training on Radon prevention and removal should help to correct elevated levels.
Look For A Radon-Resistant New Construction Home – If you are in the market for a new home, or are in the process of building a new home, ask about Radon-Resistant New Construction (RRNC) methods. RRNC homes prevent this deadly gas from entering a home right from the start. This checklist explains what contractors can do to prevent a Radon problem before anyone moves in.
Tell Your Friends – Spreading the word to friends and family during National Radon Action Month is another great way to reduce the danger posed by this gas. Make sure your family and neighbors are aware of the problems and risks associated with Radon invading their living space and pass along the information listed above so that they know how to handle the problem if it arises.