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Donna Heron, 215-814-5113
PHILADELPHIA – With the weather turning chilly, it’s time for the list of fall chores. And right up there along with installing the storm windows and getting the heating system checked, should be testing the radon levels inside your home.
Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked.
Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. It is harmless when dispersed into outdoor air. But when it becomes trapped inside buildings, it can be harmful at elevated levels. It typically moves up through the ground to the air in your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. This means any home can have a radon problem, whether it is new or old, well-sealed or drafty, with or without basements.
Conducting a radon test is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk of radon because you can’t see it, smell it, or even taste it. Fall and winter are the best times to conduct a test because doors and windows are sealed tight against the cold, which ensures a more accurate radon reading.
Radon test kits are easy to use and inexpensive. They are available at any hardware store or home center.
For best results, EPA recommends that the radon test be conducted in the lowest livable level of the home, such as the basement, during the colder months of the year. Tests can also be taken during other times of the year if windows and doors have been closed for 12 hours prior to testing.
EPA recommends that houses with radon levels of four picocuries or more of radon should be vented to prevent accumulation of the gas indoors. A variety of methods can be used to reduce radon in homes. Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation is a basic part of most approaches to radon reduction. EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to limit radon entry. Sealing alone has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently.
In most cases, a system with a vent pipe and fan is used to reduce radon. These "sub-slab depressurization" systems do not require major changes to your home. They prevent radon gas from entering the home from below the concrete floor and from outside the foundation.
The cost of making repairs depends on how your home was built and the extent of the radon problems. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs like painting or having a new hot water heater installed. The average price for a contractor ranges from $500 and $2,500.
To learn more about how to receive a discounted radon home test kit or for more information about radon, and how to contact your state radon office, go to http://www.epa.gov/radon, or call 1-800-SOS-Radon.