The potential risk from radon gas exposure can easily be overlooked. It is an odourless, colourless and tasteless gas. You may not even know there is radon in your home. However, this silent killer is the second leading cause of lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Radon occurs naturally, compounding the risks for exposure. Radon gas is a decay product of uranium which occurs in the Earth's crust. Often, radon enters the home from the soil surrounding the house. Radon concentrations vary with soil chemistry and geology.
Determine if you have a radon problem by testing your home. Short-term and long-term test kits are available from hardware stores and home improvement centres. The difference between the two is how rapidly you will get results. With short-term kits, you may get results in as little as two days.
Follow up with a long-term test if short-term results indicate a problem. Radon concentrations can vary day to day. For more accurate results and a clearer indication of your radon problem, use a long-term test. Results may take 90 days or longer. If test results exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Action (EPA) action level of 4 picocuries per litre, prompt action is necessary.
Look for ways that radon could be entering your home. Since the soil around your home can be a potential source, inspect the foundation and outer walls of your home. Radon will concentrate at lower levels within your home. Seal any cracks or holes you find after your inspection.
Caulk around the frames of all lower level windows. Make sure your windows close securely. Replace windows as necessary.
Test your water if you are on a private well system. Call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 for information on how to test your water.
Find and hire an EPA-certified radon mitigation contractor. Since any radon exposure is potentially hazardous, consider having your home inspected even if your radon levels are below the EPA action level. The EPA website provides an interactive search to help you locate a contractor in your state.
Install a radon reduction system as per the advice of your contractor. Each home is different. A contractor will advise you on the best system for your home based on the construction, the type of foundation, and your specific environmental conditions.
Install a radon warning device as part of your radon reduction system. Have your contractor test the device to make sure it is working properly.
Perform periodic maintenance on your radon reduction system. Depending upon the system you have, you may need to replace filters occasionally. Your radon contractor will advise you on proper procedures.
If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, you are at the greatest risk of developing lung cancer.