What Do You Know About Radon?

Recently, I completed a radon measurement certification program. My husband is a certified radon measurement specialist and a radon mitigation specialist. Since I have also spent the last 13 years in the real estate world, I can say with much honesty, that radon is regarded as a pesky issue that most realtors and homeowners would rather not have deal with.

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the ground, usually through uranium in the soil, rocks or water and it makes its way to the air we breathe. Unfortunately, we are not able to smell, see or taste radon. When we breathe air containing radon, we increase our chances of getting lung cancer. Actually, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, which amounts to 21,000 deaths per year.

Radon makes its way into our homes through cracks or openings in the foundation or through well water and then it gets trapped inside our homes. Statistics say that one out of every 15 homes in the United States has radon. It doesn’t matter if the home is old or new, with or without a basement, or how well the house has been sealed, if there is radon in the ground under the home, than the home will have radon. Some states, like Iowa for example, have very high levels of radon. Unfortunately, radon cannot be predicted in states or neighborhoods. Just because the neighbor had high levels of radon doesn’t mean that the house next door will have high levels also.

The only way to know if the house has radon, is to have the house tested. There are certified radon measurement specialists that will do testing using a continuous radon monitor or some of the Public Health Agencies have do-it-yourself radon kits that can be purchased. The radon monitors or kits are usually placed in the lowest livable area of the home, such as a basement, away from drafts, in a closed house (windows and doors) to get an accurate reading.

The EPA recommends that the house be fixed if the radon level is 4 picocuries per liter or more. If the radon levels are less than 4 picocuries per liter, the radon can still be harmful and it is recommended to get the levels down as far as possible.

I have recently been asked about radon testing in daycare centers. After some investigation and a call to the EPA, I have learned, to the best of my knowledge, within one year of being licensed or renewed for a license, a daycare center that operates on the ground level or use basement areas for classrooms, must test for radon and must test every two years thereafter. If testing confirms levels in excess of 4.0pcils, a plan using radon mitigation procedures established by the Department of Public Health must be in place before a license can be issued or renewed.

Legislators are also working on getting bills passed for having radon testing in schools that operate on the ground level or use basement areas for classrooms. Children are more sensitive to the harmful effects of radon because of their size and they tend to breathe faster than most adults, taking in more air and radon.

Most adults have tried to ignore the radon facts or deny that radon exists. I have been very surprised at the amount of people I talk to that know nothing about radon or the effects that it is having on their health. Radon can be a danger to our health, but taking steps to eliminate it in our homes is quite a simple process. Find out for yourself and take steps to protect yourself and your family.