Despite the fact that radon is the # 1 cause of lung cancer after smoking, causing over 21,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the US, not enough people are aware of radon's lethal potential. Even among those homeowners who know about radon, the number of houses that are tested for radon remains surprisingly low.
The need for greater radon awareness and action was reinforced by a recent study completed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Their survey revealed that 73% of Colorado's residents are aware of radon. But only 34% percent of survey respondents have had their homes tested for radon gas. One obvious reason for this disconnect between awareness and action is the fact that radon gas is invisible and odorless. The only way to detect the presence of radon and determine if exposure levels are hazardous is to have the house or building tested.
Other statistics from the survey showed that radon knowledge tended to increase with age, education level and income. People 18-29 years old were least likely to know about radon; those in the 30-49 year-old group were not as knowledgeable as those aged 50-69 years.
What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally -a byproduct of the ingoing decay of uranium in the soil and in rocks. Radon can be found all over the planet, but it is more prevalent in some areas than in others. While radon gas dispresses harmlessly into the open air, it can accumulate in dangerous concentrations inside buildings. The potential for radon accumulation exists wherever the house has a slab, crawl space or foundation foundation. Radon gas passes easily through cracks in concrete and through numerous gaps, cracks and openings in building materials. Consequently, it can get to just about any part of a house.
The US Environmental Protection Agency as well as state environmental and health organizations are hoping to increase radon awareness and radon mitigation to reduce radon exposure and consequent health issues. To avoid the risk of potentially lethal radon exposure, every house should be tested for radon -a procedure that can be done inexpensively by homeowners (using kits that are available at hardware stores, home centers and online) or by radon mitigation contractors.
If a radon test reveals radon exposure levels at or above 4 picocuries per liter of interior air are detected, a mitigation system should be installed. The technology and business of radon mitigation has been evolving for over 30 years. Today it's not difficult to find a licensed radon mitigation contractor serving your community. Even with high concentrations of radon gas are detected, an experienced contractor will be able to guarantee that a state-of-the-art abatement system will reduce radon exposure to acceptable levels.
A typical radon abatement system consists of large-diameter plastic pipe that extends into the soil at one or more locations benefit the house. If the foundation has a concrete floor, holes are made to reach the soil. When there's a dirt-floored crawl space, it's usually necessary to seal the crawl space floor with a thick layer of plastic. The pipe runs outside the house, and has in-line fan installed to pull radon-rich air from the soil and blow it outside.