Radon is a radioactive gas that leaks out of the ground. Outside, radon is found in such small concentrations that the air outside is able to dilute it enough so it becomes harmless. In our homes, however, radon gas can become trapped and build up to levels that can harm our lungs.
WHY IS RADON HARMFUL TO MY FAMILY AND ME?
When inhaled at high concentrations over time, radon gas can cause lung tissue to mutate into cancerous cells. This damage happens in much the same way that cigarette smoking can damage your lungs. In fact, radon is the #2 cause of lung cancer, right behind smoking.
According to the EPA, you are seven times more likely to get lung cancer if you live in a home with radon levels over four picocuries, and that risk only goes up with higher concentrations. It’s worse if you are a smoker living in a home with radon — your risk of getting lung cancer is 62 times higher than a non-smoker not exposed to radon!
WHAT LEVEL OF RADON SHOULD I BE WORRIED ABOUT?
The EPA recommends our homes have a maximum of four picocuries of radon per liter of air. However, the World Health Organization recommends a maximum of two. Let’s put it in perspective — every picocurie of radon you breathe in is the equivalent in lung damage of smoking 2.5 cigarettes per day, so 10 picocuries are the same as smoking a pack of cigarettes each day.
HOW DO I GET MY HOME TESTED FOR RADON?
There are radon contractors who have passed a certification exam by the National Radon Proficiency Program that can help test your home. These contractors have the knowledge and expertise to test and advise on ways to mitigate the radon in your home. There are also DIY home kits you can buy at any hardware store, or you can even get a kit at your local health department.
HOW IS RADON TESTING DONE?
Radon testing begins by making sure that your home’s windows and doors have been tightly shut for 12 hours prior to the start of the test. The radon contractor will have either an electronic radon test device or some type of charcoal sampling cartridge that will absorb radon gas for 48 hours. Certain electronic meters will have an instant result at the end of the 48 hour testing period while other devices and the charcoal kits will have to be sent off to a lab and analyzed with results coming back In a couple of weeks.
IS ONE TEST BETTER THAN ANOTHER?
No radon test is necessarily better than another, and each one should have similar accuracy, as long as it was done in a closed house for 48 hours and was administered properly. The main difference between test types would be the convenience of having instant results versus waiting a couple of weeks to know your home’s radon levels.
IS RADON EVERYWHERE?
Yes, radon is everywhere but it’s found in higher concentrations in different areas based on geology.
WHY DOES KENTUCKY HAVE SUCH HIGH RADON LEVELS?
Because of the limestone geology here in Kentucky, it is easy for radon gas to find its way to the surface. Limestone is a karst (think Swiss cheese-like) with lots of holes and pores, so it is easy for the gas to find its way to the surface before ultimately getting trapped in our homes.
MY HOUSE HAS A BASEMENT. ISN’T RADON ONLY AN ISSUE FOR HOUSES WITH A CRAWL SPACE?
Any home, regardless if it sits on a crawl space, basement, or slab foundation can have radon issues.
I HAD MY HOME TESTED WHEN WE MOVED IN AND THE LEVELS WERE OKAY. SHOULD I EVER TEST FOR RADON AGAIN?
You should definitely retest your home, especially as you make improvements that make it tighter, such as installing new windows or upgrading your insulation. Even with no changes in your home the EPA recommends retesting every two years because the ground around your home can settle and open a path for radon that did not exist when the previous test was done.
MY HOUSE HAS MORE THAN 4 PICOCURIES OF RADON. NOW WHAT?
A certified radon contractor will need to see your test results and depending on the level of radon gas they can form a mitigation plan specific to your home’s needs.
HOW HARD IS RADON TO MITIGATE? WILL IT TAKE A LOT OF TIME AND CREATE A MESS?
Radon mitigation depends on how high the measurement is, but in many cases, the radon can be mitigated in as little as one day with little to no mess. In the case of a house on a crawl space, the radon mitigation system will likely also result in an improvement in the condition of the overall crawl space in terms of moisture levels, etc.
HOW MUCH DOES A RADON MITIGATION SYSTEM COST?
Pricing for a radon mitigation system will vary widely based on the levels of radon in the home, but the EPA cites between $1,000 and $2,000 as an average cost.
For more information, you can read the EPA’s handout on radon.