Take a deep breath in.
Did you know that at this very moment, you could unknowingly be inhaling a cancer-causing gas that kills an estimated 21,000 Americans every year? It’s true. This odorless, tasteless, and colorless gas — known as radon — can flourish virtually undetected in homes, schools, and buildings anywhere in the U.S. The silent killer has been labeled the second leading cause of lung cancer in America behind cigarette smoking and the first leading cause for non-smokers. Some good news? Overexposure to radon is 100% preventable. But you have to know what steps to take. That’s why the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is urging you to be proactive every January during National Radon Action Month to reduce your risk of radon poisoning.
What is Radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that is formed when the chemical element uranium naturally decays in soil, rock, and water. Although there is always a small, non-threatening amount of the gas lingering in the air outdoors, radon can accumulate to dangerously toxic levels inside homes and buildings overtime. Most frequently, it rises up from ground soil and seeps into a building through cracks in the walls and floors, the pores of the foundation, and the water supply. Especially vulnerable hotspots include basements, first-floor rooms, and garages.
According to the National Safety Council, when radon begins to decay, it releases tiny radioactive particles into the air. When inhaled, these particles become trapped in the lungs. As the particles break down, they release miniscule “bursts” of energy that cause damage to surrounding tissue and greatly increase the risk of developing cancerous cells.
How Do You Know If You Have A Radon Problem?
Studies conducted by the EPA and the American Lung Association find that approximately 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. harbors an unsafe level of radon. The only way to find out whether your home or building is affected is by testing your indoor air. This is actually a simple, do-it-yourself task that you can perform with an inexpensive indoor radon detector. You can also hire a qualified professional tester to test your levels for you.
Indoor radon gas detectors measure your air’s naturally fluctuating radon levels in picocuries per liter (pCi/L), a measurement of radioactivity. The average indoor level is estimated to be 1.3 pCi/L. A radon level of 4 pCi/L or higher, according to the EPA and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, is considered unhealthy. The EPA recommends that homes and buildings with this measurement undergo thorough treatment to reduce their radon concentrations and to lower the lung cancer risk of anyone inside. Typically, a level of 2 pCi/L is ideal. If you find that your radon level is too high, seek out a qualified radon mitigation specialist to help you determine the best method of radon reduction for your home or building.
Indoor detectors such as the wall-mountable Safety Siren Radon Gas Detector Pro Series 3 monitor both short-term and long-term average radon levels. New readings are displayed every hour on the device’s LCD screen, and an audible alarm sounds anytime the level rises above 4 pCi/L. The Safety Siren unit is an easy-to-use and economical first line of defense against the dangers of increased radon exposure.
Fixing A Radon Problem
If you find that your home has a radon problem, check your local phone book or call your state radon office to locate a radon mitigation specialist in your area. Most homes can be fixed for approximately the same cost as other common household repairs. The overall cost depends on several factors, including how your home was built.
If you are building or plan to build a new home, consider radon-resistant construction methods as an early prevention strategy for reducing radon entry. When used properly, these methods — including using vapor retarders, installing radon vent piping, applying sealants, and placing gravel below the home's foundation — can greatly reduce your risk of lung cancer. The additional cost of these provisions at the time of construction is usually minimal.
If you want to learn more information about the health dangers of radon, testing methods, and how to find qualified radon mitigation contractors, check out EPA’s updated radon protection guide.
Still Got Questions?
For more information on specific products and ways to improve your indoor air quality, please review our extensive product listings and other educational materials. Not sure what’s best for you? We can take the guesswork out of decision-making. Contact our product experts toll-free at 1 (800) 934-9194. We want to help make your environment a healthy one.