Radon: What You Need to Know
Radon is a naturally occurring environmental toxin. It's the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and therefore worthy of our consideration. The good news is that this toxin is relatively easy to identify and mitigate.
- What is radon?
Radon is a colorless, chemically unreactive inert gas. You cannot smell, see, or taste radon. It is the heaviest known gas, nine times denser than air, and occurs as part of the normal radioactive decay process. It enters our living spaces via the ground, groundwater, or building materials. Holes or cracks in the foundation may be a clue that radon is an issue.
- How do I know if we have a radon problem?
Since human senses cannot detect radon, your environment must be tested. There are two types of tests: Long-term and short-term. The Environmental Protection Agency suggests these steps when evaluating your home or office:
- Step 1: Take a short-term test. If your result is 4 pCi/L or higher, take a follow-up test (Step 2) to be sure.
- Step 2: Follow up with either a long-term test or a second short-term test.
If you need results quickly, the EPA suggests a second short-term test. If time is not an issue, the long-term test may offer a better understanding of the year-round radon average. For more information, see the EPA's A Citizen's Guide to Radon.
Kansas State University offers affordable testing options at National Radon Program Services. Continuous monitoring is also available with devices such as the Safety Siren Pro Series HS71512 3 Radon Gas Detector.
- How can I reduce the levels of radon in my home or workplace?
Because of the varied issues surrounding radon, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, there are several proven correction methods, including a vent pipe system and fan which pulls radon from underneath the building and vents it to the outside. Known as a Soil Suction Radon Reduction System, this option does not require major changes to the structure. When foundation cracks are sealed in addition to this measure, the radon levels can be significantly reduced.
The EPA recommends contacting your state's radon program to find a qualified contractor near you. See their interactive map for state-by-state information.
Other mitigation service providers may be found through either of these organizations:
You can expect to pay between $500 and $2,500, depending on the size and design of your home or office building. Such an investment can go a long way toward protecting your health and well-being.