Ever heard of radon? Maybe your Realtor suggested radon testing before you bought your home or maybe you’ve seen radon in the headlines. If so, it’s for good reason because radon isn’t good for you. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated January National Radon Action Month to educate people about this invisible killer and help mitigate its dangerous effects. Read on to find out why it’s important to know how much radon is in your home.
What is radon?
Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that occurs as uranium decays within rock, soil, and water. Over time, radon exposure can lead to lung damage or lung cancer, but it may be years before health problems appear. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, and it claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans annually.
Radon can seep into your home through cracks in the floors and walls and via gaps around service pipes or sump pumps. It’s found all over the country, but Indiana has disproportionately high radon levels. Nearly one out of every 15 homes in America has elevated radon levels, but in Indiana, nearly one out of every three homes falls into that category.
How much is dangerous?
Radon is a naturally occurring substance found all around us, whether we’re indoors or outdoors. Radon is measured in units known as picocuries per liter of air. Outdoors, radon is present at an average level of 0.4 picocuries per liter of air. Indoors, it may be more concentrated. The EPA recommends taking action to reduce radon in homes that have a radon level at or above 4 picocuries per liter of air.
How are radon levels tested and treated?
Testing for radon levels is relatively easy and inexpensive. Most hardware stores sell do-it-yourself testing kits that you place in your home for at least three months before sending them to a laboratory for analysis. Or you can hire a professional tester.
Radon levels can be reduced by sealing cracks in floors and walls and through special ventilation methods. If your home shows concerning radon levels, consider hiring a professional contractor to reduce these levels. Radon reduction is not typically a DIY project because there’s potential for creating other hazards or even accidentally increasing your home’s radon levels—something you don’t want. The good news: Proper remediation can dramatically lower the radon levels in your house.
For more information and resources, call the Indiana State Department of Health Radon Hotline at 1-800-272-9723.