An Invisible Intruder

by J on May 14, 2010

Many of us take extra precautions to make our homes safe places. We baby proof our homes to keep our little ones safe. We may purchase a dog to keep watch over our homes and family, and many of us install alarm systems to thwart intruders from breaking in. Sometimes, however, it’s the intruders we can’t see that may be the most dangerous.

Radon gas is an intruder that can’t be seen or smelled, but it is estimated to cause many thousands of deaths each year. According to the Surgeon General, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today.

What is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs from the natural breakdown of uranium, which is found in soil, rocks and water. It then gets into the air we breathe. It is found in all areas of the United States and can be in any type of building, including our schools, offices and homes. Our greatest risk of exposure, however, is right in our own homes where we spend most of our time.

How Does Radon Get into Homes?

Basically, radon moves up through the ground to the air above and into our homes through cracks in solid floors, construction joints, cracks in walls, gaps in suspended floors, gaps around service pipes, cavities inside walls and the water supply.

Any home can have radon. It doesn’t matter whether your home is new, old, airtight, drafty, with a basement or without a basement. Our homes trap the radon inside and the levels can become dangerously high. The EPA estimates that 1 out of every 15 homes in the United States has elevated radon levels (the average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L).


The only way to know for certain if your home has a high radon level is to test for it. The EPA recommends that schools be tested and it recommends testing all areas in a home below the third floor for radon levels. Two types of tests exist for radon:  short-term tests and long-term tests. Short-terms tests take from between 2-90 days, while long-term tests are in your home for over 90 days and give a more accurate picture of your year-round average radon level. You can purchase some tests in your local hardware store, or you can contact your state radon office for a list of qualified testers to conduct the testing for you. Depending on your levels, you may want to contact a radon mitigation expert.

Fixable Problem

Fortunately, a high radon level can be fixed. A radon mitigation expert can install a radon reduction system in your home. Some of these systems can reduce the levels by up to 99%.

The first step is to find out if you have high radon levels. Test your home so you know the levels and then proceed from there. Radon is one intruder that can be beat.

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