Do you know the level of radon in your home? Do you know that radon gas is the No. 2 cause of lung cancer?
January is National Radon Awareness Month and with our snow and frozen ground comes the opportunity for you to find out if your home is harboring too much radon. Of tests completed during the last eight years through the Colorado State University Extension Office, two of every three have indicated radon levels that need mitigation. The safe level is below 4 picoCuries per liter of air, or 4 pCi/L. Throughout this county, homes have tested anywhere from 1 to 345 pCi/L!
Radon gas is a natural product of the soil in this area, but if trapped in your living space, long-term exposure can cause lung cancer. Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is produced by the decay of the granite naturally found in our soil. The gas moves through the ground and seeps into your home through the tiny cracks and holes in the foundation. The gas attaches to dust particles that you breath. Radon exposure is extremely dangerous.
Radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall. If levels are found to be elevated, radon can be vented from the home before it has a chance to build to harmful levels.
Homeowners can conduct a basic radon test by hanging a test kit in the living area. A radon kit can be purchased for around $12 from local hardware stores. (There is an additional fee for getting the test results from a lab.) Hang the kit for three days. Excess air circulation will affect the accuracy of the test. Once the lab receives the results, they are usually emailed to you within a day or two.
If the test shows average levels of radon at 4 pCi/L or above, a mitigation system is recommended. Mitigating typically involves venting air beneath the home.
The first step is sealing cracks in the home’s foundation and then installing a vent pipe under the lowest level of the house to vent the air outside. Also, a small fan could be installed to pull the gas from the soil beneath the house and vent it above the roof where it can’t re-enter the home. Most importantly, after the radon mitigation system is installed, get a second test. Only by testing can you be sure the mitigation system was properly designed and installed.
Homeowners should test their homes every five years. A home with a mitigation system should be re-tested every two years. If a home’s heating system is changed or the home is remodeled, air flow could be altered and a test should be done.
Home construction techniques during the last 20 years have led to tighter, more energy-efficient homes. These tighter homes also can hold more radon gas.
The good news is that testing and mitigation are possible without too much expense.
The Extension Office has scheduled several sessions for residents to learn about radon. Sessions cost $10 and include a test kit. For more information, call 382-6461. The test requires no additional charge for reading.
firstname.lastname@example.org or 382-6461. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.