I have bought and sold several houses in my lifetime, in several states and I never once remember having a radon test when I moved in or moved out. You may be in the same situation. Maybe you have never even heard of this radon and are wondering what the big deal is. Why would you need to worry about this? Quite simply, radon exposure can kill you and you may never know you have been exposed until it is too late. Radon exposure causes the second most cases of lung cancer in this country, second only to cigarette smoking. The difference is you may never even know that you have been inhaling small levels of radon for years, unless you take precautions and have your house tested and cleared of this gas.
What is Radon?
Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless gas with the added punch that it is radioactive. The radioactive nature of radon is what makes it especially dangerous and toxic. The other part that is disconcerting about this gas is that it is not produced by humans, but rather occurs naturally. It comes from the ground, from dirt and soil and also from water. In addition to this many materials used to build houses and other structures can produce radon, like insulation, paints, sheet rock and even granite counter tops. Radon levels are higher in the summer than in the winter. Also, there are certain states that have higher levels of radon in homes. Although, there is radon present in every state there are some states that have higher levels of this gas present. An interesting and daunting fact is that all of the states in New England have among the highest levels of radon in the country. It is estimated that 1 in 15 homes in the United States have levels of radon that are higher than are recommended. For decades after this gas was discovered its dangers were not known. In fact, Radon was once used in cancer treatments and in some spas because it was believed to have some health benefits, these practices haves ceased as it has been determined that these beliefs were not true and that radon is merely dangerous.
What Are the Dangers of Radon Exposure?
There are significant dangers to your health from long term exposure to radon. Exposure to radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers in this country. It only takes about five years for the effects of radon exposure to become evident in your body. There are no short term symptoms and often people aren’t diagnosed with radon exposure until there has already been significant damage and usually when a person has already been diagnosed with lung cancer. Lung cancer is more likely in people who smoke and also have long term exposure to radon. Children are also more sensitive to radon and may be more vulnerable to the damage of radiation. There is no test to determine whether you have radon poisoning, but these are some early symptoms of lung cancer for you to look out for:
- persistent cough
- coughing up blood
- shortness of breath
- chest pain, especially when you cough or laugh
- frequent infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia
If you have any or a combination of these symptoms you should see your doctor.
How Do You Find Out if Your Home Has High Levels of Radon?
First of all, no amount of radon is safe, but the EPA has determined that 2 pCi is and acceptable level of radon to have in your home. Any level higher than this is dangerous and can cause long term negative health issues. So, how do you find out what the level of radon in your home is? You have two options for testing these levels in your home. You can either test yourself with a kit that you can purchase online or in hardware store or you can have a professional home inspector perform the test for you. When you are buying or selling a home or you suspect that you have high levels in your home it is highly recommended that you seek out a professional to conduct this test. This is also recommended if you do your own test and find that you have a level of 4 pCi or above. After, you find out what the level of radon is in your home there are steps that you should take to remove this gas from your home.
What to Do If Your Home Has an Unacceptable Level of Radon?
Like with testing for radon, when you find out that you have an unacceptable level of radon in your home you have two choices, you can repair your house yourself or hire a qualified contractor to make necessary repairs for you. If the levels of radon in your home is 4 pCi or above, it is recommended that you have a professional evaluate your home and make necessary repairs. These repairs should not be too expensive and have great benefits. Some of the repairs you may need to do to remove radon from your home and to protect against it from seeping into your home in the future are:
- Have a soil-suction radon reduction system installed in your home- this can remove 99% of radon from your home
- Have a radon remediation specialist seal cracks in your foundation, walls, wall joints and floors
- Keep the windows in the bottom levels of your home open
- When temperatures are warm use window fans to blow air out of your home
- Test again after all repairs are done to make sure that the radon levels have been reduced
- Use long term tests to insure that radon levels stay at an acceptable level
The long term effects of radon exposure on your health can be very scary. We want to do all we can to keep our families from all possible threats, whether we can see them or not. Radon is one of these silent threats to your family’s health. Take action, have your house tested by a professional radon specialist, better safe than sorry!