PROTECTING YOUR FAMILY FROM RADON IN YOUR HOME

By Beth Weinhouse
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According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) an estimated one in 15 homes in the U.S. have unsafe levels of radon gas . To protect your family and keep everyone healthy, we've broken down what you need to know about radon:

  • What is radon and how does it get into homes? Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil and rocks throughout the United States. The gas can enter homes and other buildings through small cracks and holes in the foundation or flooring. Once inside, the radon can become trapped, raising concentrations of the gas in the air. If the concentration becomes high, it can damage the lungs of people who breathe it in, raising the risk of lung cancer. The EPA says that radon gas is the second most frequent cause of lung cancer (after smoking), and is responsible for approximately 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the U.S. Because radon has no smell, color or taste, it's impossible for anyone to know they're at risk unless they test their homes for the presence of the gas.
  • How do you test for radon? You can buy inexpensive do-it-yourself radon test kits at home centers or hardware stores to test for the gas in your home. With the do-it-yourself option, the EPA recommends you start with a short-term kit (defined as 2-90 days) and place the kit in the lowest level of your house that's lived in. In other words, if you have a finished basement with a bedroom or playroom, that's where you should place the test kit. The test kit is left in place for the specified period of time and then sent to a lab for analysis. Another option is to have your home professionally tested, which is always recommended before you move into a new house. Re-testing is a good idea after certain home improvements such as air-sealing, installing new windows, or refinishing a basement.

    Virtually all homes contain some radon, but the EPA and the Surgeon General recommend taking steps to reduce levels if a test shows a test reading of 4 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter of air) or higher.
  • How can you reduce high levels of radon in your home? Properly installed radon reduction systems can reduce household radon levels by as much as 99 percent . These systems help ventilate your house while still containing heat or energy losses. Installing this kind of system is not a do-it-yourself project and should be left to professionals with the knowledge, skills and equipment to do it right. Currently twenty-one states and the District of Columbia require licensing or certification of professionals who test and fix radon gas levels in homes. The cost of making the repairs to reduce radon levels depends on the size and design of your house as well as other factors (such as where you live). The National Safety Council advises that, in general, the repairs will cost between $500 and $2500.
Being prepared and testing your home can help protect you and your loved ones from the harmful effects of this common but dangerous gas.


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