How to protect your home from radon — the silent killer

radon

If you mention radon to most people, it’s likely you’ll get a blank stare. But if you mention lung cancer, you’ve got their attention! November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s a perfect time to learn more about radon and how to test radon levels in your home.

According to US Surgeon General Richard Carmona, MD, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and is estimated to cause 21,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. The scary thing is, Utah has high levels of radon throughout the state, and most of us don’t even know it.

More information about radon is available at a free Radon Awareness Open House in the south lobby of Riverton Hospital (Building 1 entrance) on Thursday, November 19, from 6-8 p.m.

What is radon?

Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas that results from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air we breathe. Since it can be produced by common elements, radon gas can be a problem anywhere. Radon can get into any type of building – homes, offices, and schools. You and your family are most likely to get your greatest exposure at home, where you spend most of your time.

How does radon get into your home?

Because radon is a gas, it can get in where solids can’t. Common sources where radon enters homes:

  • Cracks in solid floors
  • Construction joints
  • Cracks in walls
  • Gaps in suspended floors
  • Gaps around pipes
  • Cavities inside walls
  • The water supply

Does your home have high levels of radon?

The problem with radon is you can’t smell, taste, or see it. Eleanor Divver, radon program coordinator for the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, says, “You don’t know if your home has elevated levels unless you test it.” The good news is, testing your home for radon is simple, easy, and inexpensive. A test kit can be ordered online at Radon.Utah.Gov or you can buy one from your local hardware store.

What do your test results mean?

The average outdoor level of radon is 0.4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) while the average indoor level is 1.3 pCi/L. The average Utah home has a high level of 5.3 pCi/L. The Environmental Protection Agency has set the “action level” – which is the point at which you need to take action to remove the radon from your home, school, or work place – at 4.0 pCi/L. If your test levels exceed that amount, you’ll want to take action to fix your home as soon as possible. In general, the higher the radon levels, the more danger you and your family are in.

If you have high radon levels, what should you do?

First, RELAX! It’s important to remember that the threat is completely correctable. Radon levels can be fixed inside every home. If you perform a single test and find high levels of radon, it’s time to hire an experienced professional who can install a radon mitigation system. Mitigation systems effectively pull radon out of your home. If you’re building a new home, consider installing a simple, inexpensive ventilation system that can protect your family from radon gas. You can find a certified radon contractor or mitigation providers at radon.utah.gov.

Take a moment and share this information with people you care about. If each of us can spread the word about radon, we can save many lives this year and for many years to come. The sooner you test your home, the better off you and your family will be. So be on the safe side. For your own peace of mind, and to keep yourself and your loved ones safe, get your home tested for radon.