Have you ever tested your home for radon? If not, January is a great time to "take action."
Because you can't see, smell, or taste radon, you cannot tell if it is in your home without testing. And if you don't test, you may not find out until years from now when someone you love is diagnosed with lung cancer. Yes, it is that serious! In the Northern Shenandoah Valley we are particularly at risk since we live in the "red zone," an area with the highest instances of radon (see map).
Radon causes about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year, which is more than the number of deaths from drunk driving, falls in the home, drownings, or home fires. Radon is a radioactive gas formed from the breakdown of uranium. When you breathe air containing radon gas, the radioactive particles get trapped in your lungs and can damage lung tissue over time, causing lung cancer.
Fortunately, testing your home for radon is easy and inexpensive. And there are simple solutions for reducing radon if you find you have elevated levels. You can purchase a test kit at a local hardware or home improvement store or by phone. Follow the instructions for exposing the kit to the air in the lowest lived-in level of the home (often the basement). The winter months are a good time to test because you are probably already keeping your windows and doors closed, which is important for an accurate reading. After the recommended time, reseal the test kit and return it to the company for processing.
Your results will tell you the amount of radon in your home, measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). The level in most homes can be reduced to below 2 pCi/L. If your average level is greater than 4 pCi/L, you should definitely take action to fix the problem. Radon reduction systems are similar in cost to many other common home repairs. And they can reduce the level of radon in your home by up to 99%.
One out of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have elevated levels of radon. Homes right next door to each other can have very different levels. Testing is the only way to find out if you and your family are at risk. So do yourself a favor and "take action" today!
For more information:
- 1-800-SOS-RADON (767-7236)* (Purchase radon test kits by phone.)
- 1-800-55RADON (557-2366)* (Get live help for your radon questions.)
- 1-800-644-6999* (Radon Fix-It Hotline. For general information on fixing or reducing the radon level in your home.)
EPA Radon Website
www.epa.gov/radon (EPA's radon page includes links to publications, hotlines, private proficiency programs and more.)