Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and the #1 cause for non-smokers! We've sadly all heard of people who never smoked a day in their lives and still got lung cancer. How does something like this happen? The answer: Radon.
Radon is a natural radioactive gas produced from decaying uranium in the earth's crust. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed guidelines and placed limits on how much Radon gas humans can safely be exposed to. Radon is a problem in Central Illinois.
Radon gases can enter a house several different ways: cracks in the foundation, through drain tiles, granite counter tops and fireplace fronts or in well water. Radon will seep in your house anyway it can; in fact houses (even well built houses) act like a vacuum pulling radon up from the ground into your breathing space. As the house heats up, or is ventilated through open doors and windows, movement of air shifts upwards causing air from the basement and surrounding areas to draw in and expose radon gas.
As radon decays, the atom explodes sending off alpha particles, beta particles, and gamma rays. The gamma rays and beta particles are harmless. However, the alpha particles damage living lung cells. Radon decay particles stick to lung tissue. Exposure to high concentrated levels of radon gas can cause lung cancer. As with most respiratory ailments, smokers are at a greater risk than non-smokers.
According to EPA statistics, too high levels of radon gas are present in one out of every seven houses. You can't see or smell radon and the only way to know if the levels in your house are medically significant is to test. What houses should be tested? Every house. Your neighbor may have elevated levels of radon gas present while you may not and vice versa. Additionally, a test of a house may show very low levels now but there are no guarantees that radon levels will stay that way. A house should be re-tested every 2 to 5 years and when remodeling has been done.
Of the many different methods of radon testing for a real estate sale, the best is a continuous monitor set for 48 hours as suggested by the EPA. This is the testing method used by ZINN Home Inspection Services.
MYTH: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.
FACT: High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know your radon level is to test.
MYTH: A neighbor’s test result is a good indication of whether your home has a problem.
FACT: It’s not. Radon levels can vary greatly from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.
MYTH: Everyone should test their water for radon.
FACT: Although radon gets into some homes through water, it is important to first test the air in the home for radon. If your water comes from a public water system that uses ground water, call your water supplier. If high radon levels are found and the home has a private well, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 for information on testing your water.
MYTH: It’s difficult to sell homes where radon problems have been discovered.
FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked or frustrated. The added protection is sometimes a good selling point.
MYTH: I’ve lived in my home for so long, it doesn’t make sense to take action now.
FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you’ve lived with a radon problem for a long time.
MYTH: Short-term tests can’t be used for making a decision about whether to fix your home.
FACT: A short-term test followed by a second short-term test can be used to decide whether to fix your home. However, the closer the average of your two short-term tests is to 4 pCi/L, the less certain you can be about whether your year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk. Radon levels can be reduced in most homes to 2 pCi/L or below.
For more information, see EPA’s "Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon." If you have additional questions about Radon and it's effect on your family, don't hesitate to call us, 309-262-5006. Also visit www.epa.gov/radon.