You may have heard of radon – a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that can seep up from the earth and into your home. It sounds scary, and it can be, but no need to panic yet. Radon vapor exists in nearly every home, because it occurs naturally as uranium breaks down in the soil. So how can it be dangerous and yet not dangerous? It’s all about the radon levels – in low amounts there is no need to worry, but if it’s concentrated in high levels in your home, that’s when it is dangerous. So how do you know what’s safe for your house? And what can you do to fix it?
Radon And Your Health
Radon can lead to many health issues, including lung cancer in those with long-term exposure. In fact, according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after tobacco. According to the MDH, over 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States are from radon each year.
Our resident HVAC and indoor air quality expert, Keith Hill, the technical support manager at Minnesota Air, says that Minnesota happens to have geology conducive to high levels of radon in the soil beneath us, so it should be of concern to every homeowner in the state. That’s why it’s so important to check the levels found in your home.
“The EPA recommends taking action to reduce radon levels indoors if concentrations exceed 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air), however, no safe level of exposure to radon has been determined,” says Keith.
Because radon is everywhere, the greatest exposure happens where it can concentrate inside, but there are tests you can do to check the levels in your home.
Checking For Radon
If you want to check the levels of radon in your home, there are two types of tests you can do. The first test is a short-term test that takes 3-7 days and is accurate enough to let you know if you need to take further action. The second test takes 3 months to a year, and is a very accurate predictor if your home has a radon problem.
“My advice is to start with the quick test, which is also the least expensive,” says Keith, “and then proceed to the long term test, if the quick test results show borderline or high levels. Regardless of which you choose, follow the directions closely to ensure accuracy. The best time of year to take the test is winter, when the house is closed up and the radon levels are likely to be at their highest.”
If you are a resident of Minnesota, you can order your radon test kits from the MDH at a discounted rate. Click here to learn more and purchase a kit.
Dealing With Radon In Your Home
A well-ventilated home is one of the easiest ways to deal with low levels of radon, but Keith says for anything else, contact a pro.
“Most HVAC contractors are radon savvy and can help you, or they can steer you in the right direction,” he says.
Those with very high levels in their home can get a full radon abatement system installed, but talking with a radon mitigation contractor will help you find the option that’s right for you.
For more information, you can check out other radon removal options we’ve discussed in a previous post and find further information on the EPA’s Guide to Radon Reduction.