Radon Risk Easily Overlooked

Odorless Gas Linked To Lung Cancer

You can not see it or smell it, so it is easy to pretend it is not there.

Something in your home right now could be increasing your family's chance for lung cancer.

Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless, radioactive gas that percolates up from the ground.

Colorado has one of the highest concentrations in the nation.

"We had fairly high radon gas levels in the basement," said David Leevan.

He got a shock when his family bought their Louisville home in March.

"It wasn't even something that was part of my consciousness," he said.

A radon test at the Leevan's home revealed a danger they did not know was there.

"Normally you want a 4 or less and my results came back as a 10, more than double what is typically allowed," Leevan said.

Radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air.

Outdoors, it is dispersed in the atmosphere, so according to the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, levels average about 0.4.

The indoor level deemed safe by the EPA is 1.3.

If the level in the home measures 4 picocuries or higher, the EPA recommends the homeowner take action.

That is because the agency attributes 14,000 lung cancer deaths a year in the U.S. to residential radon exposure. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking.

Leevan had radon mitigation work done before the colder months, when his young children will be playing indoors.

"The thought of them playing in a basement full of radioactive gas was a concern," he said.

Home Safety Guru Louie Delaware said the only way to know for sure if there are high levels of radon in your home is to test for it.

"It's luck of the draw as to what you're on top of," he said.

There could be a lot of residents at risk in Colorado. The EPA's radon map breaks the country down into zones with the highest likely levels of radon. All but 12 Colorado counties are in Zone One, meaning they have the highest potential for dangerous radon levels. Those 12 counties are considered by the EPA to be at moderate risk.

"This is a suction fan. It wants to pull air up from under the house so it's safely away from any windows," Delaware said while installing the Leevan's mitigation system.

"The basement level is the closest place radon is going to come from. I'm most concerned if you use it for sleeping, a home office or you have kids playing the basement," he said.

Delaware said the fan he installed will run 24 hours a day, pulling air up through a hole he cut to reach the soil under the foundation, out of the house through a series of pipes, and releasing the air above the roof line outside. He applied extra caulking around the pipes and throughout the basement to seal any cracks where radon could leak into the home.

The results are not something you can see, but the peace of mind is something Leevan felt immediately.

"I'll feel a lot better, probably won't notice a difference, but I will feel a lot better," he said.

Radon tests after the fan was installed showed the level in Leevan's home had dropped to 0.9.

Homeowners can purchase test kits at hardware stores starting at around $10. Professional radon testing can cost from $75 to $200. Repairs and mitigation to bring radon levels down, according to the EPA, ranges in price from $600 to $1,200.

The EPA recommends using a qualified radon service professional. Get several estimates before moving ahead with the work. For more information, call 1-800-SOS-RADON.

PDF: Radon Test Kit Coupons | Radon Test Protocols | Frequently Asked Questions About Radon

EPA Radon Tools, Resources EPA: Breathing Easy Home Safety Guru: Breathing Easy Radon Pros Contact Page

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