You can’t see it or smell it. It’s in the air, both outdoors and in, as well as in drinking water from rivers and streams. It can be deadly. It may sound like something from a science fiction story, but it’s real. It’s radon.
Why is Radon a Big Deal?
Each year, it contributes to as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths. It’s a leading cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking and is the number 1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Non-smokers account for 20% of annual lung cancer deaths in the US
What is Radon?
Radon is an odorless, colorless, highly radioactive gas. The alpha radiation released by radon is the same as that of plutonium. It’s soluble and easily penetrates materials like paper, low-density plastic, and leather, as well as common building materials like concrete block, insulation, wood, sheetrock, etc.
Where is it found?
Radon is produced by nature. It comes from the breakdown of uranium. It’s usually found in igneous rock and soil (like granite).
Occasionally, it can be found in well water. The problem is more with the inhalation of radon gas released from the water, rather than drinking the water itself.
The greatest danger lies in the air you breathe within your home. Cracks in foundations and slabs are the open door through which radon seeps into your home. HVAC systems draw the gas into your home due to changes in the air pressure, and energy efficiency keeps it there for your family to breath.
Check out this interactive radon level map
How do I know if my home is at risk?
Low-cost radon tests can be used to discover if your home has high levels. They can be purchased at most health agencies and home improvement stores, as well as online. There are 2 main types of test kits.
- Short-term tests, take between 2 and 90 days.
- Long-term tests take more than 90 days.
Begin with a short-term test. Follow the test manufacturer’s instructions and then after the testing time is complete, mail the test kit to the lab for results.
If your results are 4 pCi/L or higher and you have time, retest with a long-term test. This will show the radon levels over a longer period of time since levels can fluctuate. Even if you don’t have time for a longer test, it’s a good idea to perform a second short test.
How much is too much?
There is no “safe” level of radon, but there are guidelines for mitigation:
A reduction of radon levels to below 2 pCi/L nationwide would likely reduce the yearly lung cancer deaths attributed to radon by 50%. The World Health Organization recommends that countries adopt reference levels of the gas of 100 Bq/m3 which is equivalent to 2.7 pCi/L.
U.S. health organizations including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Surgeon General, the American Lung Association, and the American Medical Association, recommend testing your home and encourage public action when levels are above 4 pCi/L.
Exposure to 4 pCi/L is 35 times as great as you would receive standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site. Some studies have shown that children are especially sensitive to radon exposure.
What if the levels in your home are high?
You can have a mitigation (reduction) system installed professionally. The cost ranges from $1,000-$3,000, depending on the type of system and the layout of your home. Sometimes, this cost can be covered by a healthcare savings account through your employer.
Typically, the process involves drilling a 5-inch hole in the basement slab and removing 10 gallons of dirt. Then, a PVC pipe is placed in the hole and sealed. From there, the pipe is run up through the roof of the home. The pipe contains an in-line fan that runs 24/7. This pulls the radon out of the home. From that point on, it should no longer be a problem in the home. You as well as any future home buyer can feel secure about the air in the home.
I’m buying a home. How can I know if the radon levels are high?
The Robert Dekanski Remax Team in New Jersey has published a fantastic resource for homebuyers who want to ensure the home they are purchasing will be safe. Check it out HERE.
When my husband, Dan was diagnosed with lung cancer, we were astounded. He’d never smoked or worked in an environment that contributed to lung cancer (such as with asbestos). Then we learned about radon’s contribution to lung cancer in non-smokers. Now, as Realtors, we stand behind the EPA’s recommendations to homeowners, to test and mitigate if their home is one of the 8 million homes throughout the U.S. with excessive radon levels.
Taking a Digital Break
I will be taking a digital break during the month of January. I’ve noticed that I’m not getting as much writing done as I should be, so rather than spending time on email, social media, and other online activities, I will be writing and reconnecting with my goals for 2018. You will still see weekly blog posts on Facing Cancer with Grace, because I have already written them and will post them automatically, using a scheduler. Even though I may not respond to your comments right away, I will read them and appreciate them greatly. Since I won’t be sharing my posts to social media in January I would appreciate it if those of you who use social media would share my posts. Thank you!
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
Have you had a radon test done on your home? Have you had mitigation done? If not, what is keeping you from testing? I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!
In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com
Also, put your memories into words with The Memory Maker’s Journal.
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker
 US Environmental Protection Agency: Basic Radon Fact Sheet EPA 402/F-12/005 | February 2013