- Radon and Home Renovations
If you are planning any major structural renovation, such as converting an unfinished basement area into living space, it is especially important to test the area for radon before you begin the renovation. If your test results indicate a radon problem radon-resistant techniques can be inexpensively included as part of the renovation. Because major renovations can change the level of radon in any home, always test again after work is completed to be sure that radon levels have been reduced. Most soil suction radon reduction systems include a monitor that will indicate whether the system is operating properly. In addition, it's a good idea to retest your home every two years to be sure radon levels remain low.
Lowering high radon levels requires technical knowledge and special skills. You should use a contractor who is trained to fix radon problems. A qualified contractor can study the radon problem in your home and help you pick the right treatment method. Check with your State radon office for names of qualified or State certified radon contractors in your area. You can also contact private radon proficiency programs for lists of privately certified radon professionals in your area. For more information on private radon proficiency programs, visit www.epa.gov/radon/proficiency.html. Picking someone to fix your radon problem is much like choosing a contractor for other home repairs - you may want to get references and more than one estimate. If you are considering fixing your home's radon problem yourself, you should first contact your State radon office for guidance and assistance.
- The Risk of Living With Radon
Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy. This can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. Not everyone exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer. And the amount of time between exposure and the onset of the disease may be many years.
Like other environmental pollutants, there is some uncertainty about the magnitude of radon health risks. However, we know more about radon risks than risks from most other cancer-causing substances. This is because estimates of radon risks are based on studies of cancer in humans (underground miners).
Smoking combined with radon is an especially serious health risk. Stop smoking and lower your radon level to reduce your lung cancer risk.
Children have been reported to have greater risk than adults of certain types of cancer from radiation, but there are currently no conclusive data on whether children are at greater risk than adults from radon.
Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on:
How much radon is in your home
The amount of time you spend in your home
Whether you are a smoker or have ever smoked
- Some Common Myths About Radon
MYTH: Scientists are not sure that radon really is a problem.
FACT: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.
MYTH: Radon testing is difficult, time-consuming and expensive.
FACT: Radon testing is inexpensive and easy -- it should take only a little of your time.
MYTH: Radon testing devices are not reliable and are difficult to find.
FACT: Reliable testing devices are available through the mail, in hardware stores and other retail outlets. Call your State radon office for a list of radon device companies or visit our radon proficiency program web site for information on two privately run national radon proficiency programs.
MYTH: Homes with radon problems can't be fixed.
FACT: There are solutions to radon problems in homes. Thousands of homeowners have already fixed radon problems in their homes. Radon levels can be readily lowered for $500 to $2,500. Call your State radon office or visit our radon proficiency program web site for information on how to acquire the services of a qualified professional.
MYTH: Radon affects only certain kinds of homes.
FACT: House construction can affect radon levels. However, radon can be a problem in homes of all types: old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements and homes without basements.
MYTH: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.
FACT: High radon levels have been found in every State. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know the home's radon level is to test.
MYTH: A neighbor's test result is a good indication of whether your home has a problem.
FACT: It's not. Radon levels vary from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.
Figure 171: A neighbor's test result is NOT a good indication of whether your home has a problem!! Radon levels vary from home to home. (So don't let any Realtors or sellers tell you anything different!)
MYTH: Everyone should test their water for radon.
FACT: While radon gets into some homes through the water, it is important to first test the air in the home for radon. If you find high levels and your water comes from a well, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1 800-426-4791, or your State radon office for more information.
MYTH: It is difficult to sell homes where radon problems have been discovered.
FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked or frustrated. The added protection is some times a good selling point.
MYTH: I've lived in my home for so long, it doesn't make sense to take action now.
FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you've lived with a radon problem for a long time.
MYTH: Short-term tests cannot be used for making a decision about whether to fix your home.
FACT: A short-term test, followed by a second short-term test may be used to decide whether to fix your home. However, the closer the average of your two short-term tests is to 4 pCi/L, the less certain you can be about whether your year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk. Radon levels can be reduced in some homes to 2 pCi/L or below.
State and Regional Radon and Indoor Air Quality Contacts
National Radon Hotline: 1-800-SOS-RADON
For some other Indoor Air Hotlines to contact: www.epa.gov/iaq/iaqxline.html
For more information on how to reduce your radon health risk, call your State radon office.
If you plan to make repairs yourself, be sure to contact your State radon office.
- SURGEON GENERAL HEALTH ADVISORY
"Indoor radon gas is a national health problem. Radon causes thousands of deaths each year. Millions of homes have elevated radon levels. Homes should be tested for radon. When elevated levels are confirmed, the problem should be corrected."