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Question of the Week: What have you done to protect your home against radon?

2009 January 12

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas, but it can build up inside homes and cause lung cancer (it’s number 2, after smoking). You can buy radon test kits to check for radon, improve home ventilation, and other things. January is National Radon Action Month.

What have you done to protect your home against radon?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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43 Responses leave one →
  1. Beth Braun permalink
    January 12, 2009

    We live in an area where radon is more prevalant and our home had a radon detector installed before we purchased the home back in 1996.

  2. elizabeth permalink
    January 12, 2009

    While in the market for a home, I hired an inspector to look over a home I was interested in. After paying for the home inspection and additional charge for radon testing, I discovered, one must be certified to test and certified to do remediation. At the next house I put an offer on, I had it tested by a certified radon inspector… and had a radon remediation system installed (also by certified installer) prior to moving in. So far, so good.

  3. Derrick permalink
    January 12, 2009

    I tested my own home and it was below the EPA’s action limit of 4 Picocuries per liter of air. Some homes and building in this area exceed the limit. By law all federal building need to be tested yet schools do not.
    This doesn’t make sense. I asked to have are school tested and in the basement it showed some of the highest levels recorded 50-75. Mitigating commercial buildings is very expensive compaired to private homes.

  4. Whitney permalink
    January 12, 2009

    We have a radon detection system in the laundry room. We monitor it.

  5. Kenny R permalink
    January 12, 2009

    I wrap my underwear in aluminum foil to diflect radioactive particles. The crinkling is kind of noisy but it works!

  6. Bruce permalink
    January 12, 2009

    Nothing.
    As a scientist and environmental professional with basic knowledge of statistics and probability, I am much more concerned that I’ll die from being in a car accident, an infection, skin cancer, hit by lightning, drowning, the effects of hypothermia, or being mauled by a bear.

  7. Mary G permalink
    January 12, 2009

    I try not to be so rad when I’m at home.

  8. Betsy permalink
    January 12, 2009

    Nothing yet – too expensive. We just don’t go downstairs much.

  9. George permalink
    January 12, 2009

    1. the carbon test method is really a poor way to go. Turnaround time is too long so it’s hard to determine if any changes caused a reduction in radon. I found the radon detector “Safety Siren Pro Series3 Radon Gas Detector” from Amazon quite accurate and much more convenient to use. I’ve lent mine to several friends and the ones that have had the mail-in carbon test confirmed readings from the detector are very close to their mail-in results.

    2. My reading was a bit on the high side in the winter. Ranged from about 9-14 in the basement. In the other seasons, basement was 4-8 because there was more outside air flow.

    3. I installed a radon fan from the sump tank to the outside of the house. Cost about $150 in parts and supplies. ($125 was for the radon fan). I picked the lowest power consumption radon fan I could find. (I want low radon, but also want to be as ‘green’ as possible.) I found a unit that was about 18W. I vented outside at about knee level. It’s windy where we are so I didn’t see the need to get it up to the roofline like I see so many other installs. Basement radon levels dropped to below 1 in the summer and is about 2 in the winter.

  10. Jeanie permalink
    January 12, 2009

    After testing our new home and getting a reading of 17 pc/L, we got quotes for remediation in the $1,000-1,200 range. After looking on the Web for do-it-yourself systems, we were able to complete the entire job in about 3 hours at a total cost of $400. Two subsequent re-tests brought the reading down to 0.2 and 0.3, far below the EPA action level of 4.0 pc/L.

  11. Jim Laffey permalink
    January 12, 2009

    We have a radon mitigation system installed in our home. We had a slight radon problem when we moved into the house and now the ventilation system runs 24 hours a day.

  12. john permalink
    January 12, 2009

    I dont know about radon gas but i can tell you that iam dying from the poison in CCA treated wood that i think in ten years will make #one on your lung cancer list

  13. Geri permalink
    January 12, 2009

    So, Bruce are you saying you wouldn’t advise people to test their homes? I have yet to do it, but always feel pressured to do so. Whats your opinion?

  14. Sally permalink
    January 12, 2009

    Prior to purchasing our home in 2005, we had a home inspection and randon test performed. After the home inspection and radon test, we were told the radon level was at 6.0. Prior to purchasing and moving in, we had a radon remediation system installed by a certified installer. We test the home regularly. Today the level holds at a constant 2.5. I can sleep easier with this level.

  15. Mark permalink
    January 12, 2009

    We did the short-term test on the main floor, living area of our one-year-old home in Pennsylvania and found a radon activity level >4 pC/l. The EPA website showed most of our part of the state in the radon “red” zone, so we went with the long-term test (six months). That test result was also over the recommeded level. Because I am a recovering smoker of 19 years and also aware of the synergistic effect, we had radon mitigation installed by a local registered company. The subsequent test in the basement (worst case) showed <1.6 pC/l after mitigation. One nice side benefit is that the basement no longer smells like musty concrete.

  16. Jeff permalink
    January 12, 2009

    We live in an area where radon is known to occur in some homes above the 4 pc/L limit. I am usually not too concerned about it but my son had a bird that had a birth defect but also had a bone disorder. The bird was pretty young when it died so I did some research suspecting radon may have contributed to the bird’s death although it did have a heart defect. The Vet did an autopsy discovering the bone disorder so I thought I would check radon in the house. I suspected the radon may have disrupted the bone development, but I have no real good proof. The radon was 4.8 pc/L on a sunny day. I did not have it checked when it was raining or the ground was frozen since both can contribute to higher reading in a basement. At any rate I added a radon system to the house. It seemed to help keep the basement dryer. We moved to a new house and checked the radon with the 48-hour homeowner kit that must be sent to a lab and decided to just add the radon system even though it was again just over the 4.0 limit. I believe there are added benefits to keeping the sub slab dryer.

  17. Jeremy permalink
    January 12, 2009

    Fatal Vehicle Crashes (2007) – 37,248
    Melanoma – 8,110
    Lightning – ~60
    Drowning (2005) – 3,582
    Hypothermia – 600
    Bears – <5

    Radon – 21,000

    Most radon test kits are less than $25, pretty small price to pay from a risk reduction standpoint.

  18. Jerry permalink
    January 12, 2009

    During construction of new home – had radon tube installed – no fan just the tube – under the basement concrete floor and vented through the roof. No problem – added a few dollars to the construction – a lot easier to do it at that time than wait and be required to install something when the house is on the market.

  19. Lynne Eldridge MD permalink
    January 12, 2009

    Living in an area where 1 in 3 homes have elevated radon levels, I have not only tested my own home, but continually recommend testing to neighbors, friends, strangers walking their dogs down my street, and even the check-out man at the hardware store. As a physician and a lung cancer journalist for the New York Times site, About.com, my heart breaks every day as I listen to people who wish they could go back in time and test their homes. They wonder why they didn’t take 15 minutes and spend $20 to test for an entirely preventable cause of lung cancer before it was too late. Please test your homes. If not for your sake, for that of your spouse, children, pets… If you need even further motivation (humor can bring light to many topics) check out this entry on 10 “New” reasons to test your home for radon: http://lungcancer.about.com/b/2009/01/07/radon-awareness-month-10-new-reasons-to-test-your-home-for-radon.htm

  20. Lynne Eldridge MD permalink
    January 12, 2009

    Thanks Jeremy! In this economy you stroked my
    be a “good frugal mother” back.

    Budget for 2008:

    Radon Detection Kit – $14 (MN hardware store)

    Summer sunscreen for family of 6 – $100 plus

    Upgrade safety package on my vehicle – $2300

    Lifejackets (for 6) – $240

    Long underware (for 6) – $160
    In MN, hats, gloves, spider jackets, snowpants,
    turtle necks, sweaters from Norway – $you don’t
    want to know

    Bear bells for hiking Yellowstone – $48

    Lightning – well… the kids run inside at the first sound of thunder

  21. Jimmy McCurry permalink
    January 12, 2009

    That is a good one.

  22. Jimmy McCurry permalink
    January 12, 2009

    I’m more worried about saving up for the leaky roof that needs to be replaced. If I don’t get that repaired my wife is going to do a lot more damage to me than any radon gas ever would. Maybe our New President will help me with a bailout plan for leaky roofs.

  23. Jimmy McCurry permalink
    January 12, 2009

    So Bruce, you mean that this radon situation might be blown out of proportion by some governmental scientist that is trying to keep his job? WOW. Hey did you just hear that we are now in a global cooling cycle and a lot of scientists are jumping ship on the global warming theory?

  24. M C Mathers permalink
    January 13, 2009

    I had my home tested before I bought it and the seller and I split the cost of installing a remediation system.

  25. Dwaine permalink
    January 13, 2009

    With Radon being such a big problem you would think there is some way to get your house tested for free. Does any one provide these kits to homeowners. EPA?, etc.

  26. Lynne Eldridge MD permalink
    January 13, 2009

    Dwaine,
    Check with your state health department. Several states are offering free or reduced cost radon
    tests kits this month (Radon Awareness Month). For example, the state of Illinois is offering 10,000
    free kits to residents that request them. Perhaps others out there know of other options for low
    cost or free kits?

  27. mike permalink
    January 13, 2009

    Nothing. Living in a moderate radon zone, I have not seen the need to test. I am a nuclear and environmental profesional and understand the properties and effects of radon. My previous residence was in a higher radon zone. Making sure that the lower areas, i.e. basements, crawlspaces, etc, are well ventillated is the first step to allowing radon to escape and not build up to dangerous levels.

    Beware of the testing scams out there. There are some true professionals, but some crooks, as well. Home testing kits are ok but not as effective as more costly and sophiscated equipment used by detection specialists.

    If you live in a high radon zone, based on the EPA Mapping System, read up on Radon on the EPA website and make a decision for yoursefl. If could be a smart move on your part.

  28. Sharon permalink
    January 13, 2009

    We aren’t doing anything really. San Fernando Valley California is not a radon area as far as I know, and we are on the curve of the bowl in a hillside community.

  29. Charles permalink
    January 14, 2009

    I tested my house once. No radon registered at all. But it if had, I would have fixed it. There’s a waaay greater chance of dying from radon-caused lung cancer than from lightning or a bear attack – Bruce’s risk comparisons seem rather emotionally derived.

  30. Anonymous permalink
    January 14, 2009

    Thanks Lynne I will check with TDEC here in TN.

  31. Kenya Stump permalink
    January 16, 2009

    I had a radon test done with my local health department.

  32. Dwaine permalink
    January 16, 2009

    Lynne, I checked with TDEC and they are going to mail
    me a free kit in the mail. Thank you for the info.

  33. Utah Chris permalink
    January 22, 2009

    I got a bigger dog. Acts like a canary.

  34. S Paul (India) permalink
    January 31, 2009

    Why think of radiation protection only at homes? what about work places and during travels? Since the exposure can not be avoided every where why not spend some time daily in radiation free rooms at home or in radiation free parlours?

  35. Matt permalink
    February 3, 2009

    The question of the week has been posted for nearly a month. Way to hit the ground running on the new evironmental adjenda. What are tou waiting for, the proceeds of some new “Blog Tax” to start rolling in?

  36. Cheryl permalink
    February 3, 2009

    From the realm of radiation protection – Open windows peridically, not only does it let the radon out, but it ventillates the other air irritants that accumulate over time. If you keep your home airtight, there is no where for the radon to go so it accumulates. The more likely the region is to have radon problems, the more open air time is needed. “It’s not rocket science.”

  37. Mel permalink
    February 7, 2009

    One has to wonder if Bruce swims without a wetsuit in the dead of a Minnesota winter just because he is less likely to die from hypothermia than from a car accident.

  38. Jeff permalink
    February 9, 2009

    Just found this site and am not impressed. As I recall there are numerous studies of Radon in the Scandanavian countries that show radon exposure in the homes does not increase the risk of cancer. There are studies that do show a correlation. However, here we are again regulating and scaring people jsut because there is a chance of something happening. Well Bruce is correct by pointing out the fatal vehicle crashes. If radon is such a concern, why aren’t we mitigating vehicles to prevent deaths, e.g., we all drive tank-like vehicles, or we don’t drive at all. Get a grip people and realize groups like EPA, Greenpeace, EWG, EDF only get funding by scaring the general public. They believe all industry work is biased, but their’s is just as if not more biased than industry.

  39. Jessi permalink
    February 17, 2009

    I live in the Northeast. While opening windows might work in warmer climates, it isn’t going to fly in mid-winter. Ventilation is key. So, I bought an Inline Radon Fan for my home. My health is definitely worth $167.

  40. Tanel permalink
    August 1, 2009

    I wrap my underwear in aluminum foil to diflect radioactive particles. The crinkling is kind of noisy but it works!

    Tanel Saar

  41. Larry Moyer permalink
    November 11, 2009

    I have lived in my house for 35 years. My wife has lived with me
    for the past 20 years. She has never smoked and has just been
    diagnosed with lung cancer. We had the house checked for
    radon and it was at a 7.8. We asked the Dr. if her cancer was
    caused by radon and he stated that there was no way they could
    tell for sure. If thats the case, how do they come up with the
    number of deaths due to radon induced lung cancer at 21,000.
    or any other number.

  42. Louetta permalink
    January 11, 2010

    Aluminum foil in your underwear? That is an interesting solution. What about airport security? Why don’t you just get a radon dection system installed. That might be more comfortable. Seems like the foil would be irritating as well as noisy.

  43. Tim permalink
    October 5, 2010

    Very few homes here in So Cal have basements due to the earthquake issues so radon is not as much of a problem but it is still important to test since it is such a serious issue. There is more info on testing procedures

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