According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), almost one out of every 15 homes in the United States has elevated levels of radon. Radon is an odorless, colorless radioactive gas that is the result of the natural breakdown of uranium in the soil. It is undetectable to humans without the aid of a specialized detection device. The effects of chronic radon gas inhalation are significant. The EPA estimates that about 20,000 deaths from lung cancer each year are due to radon gas inhalation, second only to the effects of cigarette smoking.
Radon rises up from the ground and seeps into your home via small cracks and holes in the foundation. No matter the age or condition of your home, radon can seep into it through gaps around service pipes, cracks in solid floors and walls, through construction joints and even through the water supply. Elevated levels of radon have been found in homes in every state in the U.S. The EPA advises that every home be tested for radon below the third floor.
Luckily, radon testing is relatively simple and inexpensive, particularly with a do-it-yourself testing kit that can be purchased online or at a home improvement store. For a little more money, you can hire a professional radon detection service that will measure the radon levels in your home and provide solutions for bringing radon down to a safe level. Radon in the air is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Any measurement below 4 pCi/L is considered to pose a low level of risk.
There are two different types of radon tests you can perform: short-term and long-term. Short-term tests last between two and 90 days, depending on the test. A long-term test remains in your home for over 90 days. As radon levels fluctuate throughout the year, a short-term test may not give you an accurate measurement of your annual radon exposure. However, the EPA recommends that you start with a short-term test. It this first test detects a radon level at or above 4 pCi/L, a second short-term test or a long-term test is used for confirmation. If the level of radon detected is particularly high on the first test, it is best that the second test is short-term in case action needs to be taken quickly. Otherwise, a long-term test will provide you with a more accurate measurement.
If your home has high levels of radon, the EPA recommends that you hire a certified contractor who specializes in radon mitigation, since reducing radon levels requires special skills, technical knowledge and equipment. The size of your home and the type of foundation will determine the kind of radon mitigation system that will likely work best in your situation. While the cost of radon mitigation averages about $1,200, the reduced risk of lung cancer for you and your family is certainly worth it!