Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, radioactive gas that causes lung cancer. The Surgeon General lists radon as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers. In Illinois, there are approximately 1160 deaths a year from lung cancer caused by radon.
If everyone could get the radon level in their homes down to 2 pCi/L or less, it could cut the lung cancer deaths from radon in half. With today's mitigation systems that vent radon out of the home, it is often possible to reduce the radon level below 2.
Radon gas comes from the breakdown of uranium, which is present naturally in the soil and rocks. Radon gas can enter the home through openings around pipes, the unsealed sump pit, and where floors and walls join. Radon also enters buildings through the crawl space or cracks in the basement or slab foundation.
You can test your home for radon any time of the year. The heating season is a good time to test radon because doors and windows are normally closed. You can buy short-term or long-term test kits. If you have never tested your home for radon, do a short test over a few days, recommends Debra Bartman, Extension Educator for University of Illinois Extension. Send in the test kit and you will soon know if your home has high levels of radon.
There is no safe level of radon. The national average indoor radon level is 1.3 pCi/L. In Illinois, the average radon level in homes is 4.4 pCi/L. Testing for radon is the only way to know the amount of radon in your home.
Around 40 % of the homes in Illinois that have been tested by licensed radon measurement professionals were found to have radon levels of 4 or more. Fifty percent of Illinois has a high potential for elevated levels of radon. Homes should be tested for radon every two years. High levels of radon have been found in every county in Illinois.
Radon tests kits can be purchased at local hardware stores and online at www.radon.illinois.gov . The American Lung Association in Illinois also provides a radon test kit for a $10 donation. Some health departments also sell radon test kits.
A do-it-yourself radon test kit is easy to use. Package directions identify where to place the test kit in your home. When the test is complete, usually within a week, mail the kit to the lab listed in the instructions. In a week or two, you should receive a report of the radon level in your home, Bartman explains.
If the test shows a high level of radon in your home, a second test should be done, a long-term test for 3 months to a year. If radon levels on the second test are high, contact a radon mitigation professional to seal up cracks in the foundation or basement floor and walls. A depressurization system can also be installed in the basement, crawl space, or under a slab-on-grade foundation. This system uses a 3 or 4-inch PVC pipe to vent radon through the roof of the house. Find licensed radon mitigators at: www.radon.illinois.gov
Source: Debra K. Bartman, Extension Educator, Consumer and Family Economics, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pull date: May 4, 2011