January is National Radon Action Month
The facts on radon are scary.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it's the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking and nearly 20,000 people will die in 2008 due to breathing too much radon without even knowing it.
For these reasons and much more, January has been designated as National Radon Action Month.
So what is exactly is radon?
It's a radioactive gas caused by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It enters homes through foundation cracks and then gets into the air one breathes.
What makes it worrisome is it can't be seen or smelled. Also troubling is the style of home, whether old or new, with or without basement, doesn't matter. One house may have a high concentration of radon in it, while your next door neighbor may not.
To test for radon, the EPA recommends testing in the lowest living level of your house. Test kits are available at most hardware or retail stores, along with the Pierce County Public Health Department, where they're on sale for $6 this month (regular $10).
The two common forms of tests are the short-term and long-term. Short-term remain in one's home for two to 90 days. It won't give a consistent year-round result, as radon levels can vary in the house from day to day and season to season. If the test results show radon levels of four picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher, the EPA recommends doing another short term test to make sure. If the second short-term test shows that figure to be four pCi/L or higher, it's advised to fix your house immediately.
According to the State of Wisconsin's website on radon, Pierce County has an average radon level of 6.2 pCi/L in reported homes. Statewide, it's estimated about five to 10 percent of homes in Wisconsin will have elevated levels of radon.
Meanwhile, a long-term test remains in the home for 90 days or more and gives a more consistent year-round average. The EPA also states that, if the long term test shows a reading of 4 pCi/L or higher, the home again should be fixed immediately.
The primary use to reduce radon, according to the EPA, is a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside. The system is known as a soil suction radon reduction system and doesn't require many changes to one's home. To find out which system works the best for the home, contact your local radon contractor.
To find the list of radon contractors and for more information about radon, call the statewide radon hotline at 1-888-LOW-RADON (1-888-569-7236).