January is National Radon Action Month. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas caused by the breakdown of radioactive materials, mainly uranium, within the earth. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. If you are a smoker, your radon risk is much greater.
The risk of radon is largely overlooked in the Athens area, but high levels can be found in our area as well as in homes all over the United States. It seeps up from the ground, through the homes foundation or flooring, and can become trapped within the living space. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you and your family are most likely at your greatest risk while in your home.
I often hear “my home is newer so I don’t have to worry about radon.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. Radon does not recognize the homes age and every age home is susceptible to high levels. Whether your home is on a crawl space, basement, or slab, you are at risk. The EPA estimates that one out of every 15 homes has high radon levels.
The only way to know if your home has elevated radon levels is to have it tested. Testing your home is a simple non-invasive procedure that only takes a few days. I use an electronic continuous radon monitor that takes hourly readings and averages them together. The system prints out an easy to interpret report with a color graph. The EPA recommended action level is at 4.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Therefore it is recommended that any home with a reading over 4.0 pCi/L be mitigated.
If your home is found to have elevated radon levels, it is recommended that a radon mitigation system be installed. Mitigation systems basically consist of PVC pipe and a continuously running blower fan. The pipe is inserted through your foundation and runs up and out of the home (typically through your roof.) The fan draws the radon saturated air from the ground before it is able to seep into the home and expels it outside. Mitigation systems can also have a side effect of reduced humidity within the home. This makes for a more comfortable and reduced allergen living environment.
If you would like to learn more about radon, you can visit http://www.epa.gov/radon, or http://www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/hmbyguid.html . Even if you are not buying or selling, it’s not a bad idea to get your place checked out. Jared