I know you're busy. But add one more thing on your “to do” list. Now.
There could be a hidden danger in your house, and unless you know about it, you’re defenseless against the Number 2 cause of lung cancer. But there is something you can do about it.
Test for radon. Soon.
January is National Radon Awareness Month. We sort of missed it for this year but I’m doing my part by telling you that radon is present in many homes at unsafe levels in the United States. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive byproduct of decaying uranium in rocks, soil, even water, all around us. What happens is that radon can permeate through concrete floors, drainpipes, basement walls, etc., and becomes trapped in enclosed spaces like our energy-efficient weather sealed homes.
What? You don’t live on top of a uranium mine? That doesn’t matter, because uranium is present in many different kinds of normal rocks and soil.
Your neighbor tested for radon and the test came out with safe results? That doesn’t matter either, because soil and geography can change dramatically even from lot to lot. Test anyway.
Radon is real. Turns out my old house, where I lived for seven years, is located in a zip code that has some of the highest radon levels in the entire state of Oregon. I had no idea! I’ve never smoked but now, I’m at risk for lung cancer. You might be, too.
Test your house. It’s not hard. Or expensive. And mitigation isn’t difficult if you end up needing it.
First conduct a short term test, available from the American Lung Association in many states, hardware stores or from the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Costs are from $14 to $40, and include the price of the analysis. In the kit is a canister or container that you set out for two or three days in a low point at your home—the basement, crawl space or main ground floor. Be sure to read the instructions carefully. Then you seal the container in an envelope and mail it to a testing laboratory who will mail the results back to you. That's it.
If the results are higher than the recommended levels (above 2-4 pCi/L (pico Curies per Liter), experts suggest to retest with either another short term test or a long term test, which is a little more expensive (maybe $35 to $60 or so) and takes up to 90 days. If your results are above 4 pCi/L, experts emphatically recommend action. (The highest tested thus far in my old neighborhood was 35.5 pCi/L!!)
Mitigation may not be expensive, and generally includes ventilation and sealing strategies. To locate a professional in your area, check on the National Environmental Health Association-National Radon Proficiency Program website.
And if you’re considering a remodel or new construction, you can use techniques during construction to potentially reduce and/or mitigate radon levels in your home. Insist on it… talk with your builder. It’s a lot easier to install systems at this point rather than later.
Until next time!
Photo courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens' website.