Is There Radon in Your Home? What to Know 

If you are a non-smoker, the biggest threat to your lung health could be permeating your home right now.  

Inhaling radon, which is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, can increase your risk of lung cancer over time. Radon can attach itself to dust and other particles and be breathed into the lungs. According to the American Cancer Society, as radon and radon progeny in the air break down, they give off radiation that can damage the DNA inside the body’s cells 

These facts may seem a little ominous but remember that having minimal amounts of radon in your home is common and does not pose an imminent health risk. Still, you’ll want to be proactive and keep your family safe this winter by monitoring your radon levels and taking action if they are elevated.  

How does radon get into my home? 

The inert, colorless and odorless radioactive gas known as radon lives naturally in the atmosphere in trace amounts. It finds its way into buildings after it enters through cracks or other holes in floors or walls and make its way around pipes, wires or pumps.  

Radon levels are usually highest in the basement or crawl space, so if you or your family spends a lot of time in the basement, you could be at a higher risk of radon exposure.  

How do I test the radon levels in my home and how much does it cost? 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends fixing your home if your radon levels sit at 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher. Comparatively, the average amount of radon in a United States home is 1.3 pCi/L.  

When it comes to testing your home, you can either do it yourself by purchasing short- or long-term testing kits, or by hiring a certified professional radon contractor to install a kit for you.  

DIY short-term tests can take anywhere from two days to 90 days to register results, depending on the device. Some professional contractors advertise a much quicker turnaround, sometimes in the two to seven-day window.  

The cost to have a short-term kit professionally installed is typically well over $100.  Short and long-term test kits at your local home improvement store or online can be had for as low as $10. Either way, you’re looking at an attached fee for lab testing, usually ranging from $20 to $50.    

Here is a quick-hit list of tips when installing a short-term kit yourself:  

  • Close outside windows and doors at least 12 hours before beginning the test. 
  • Seal your home – including windows and doors leading outside – for at least 12 hours before testing.  
  • Place the test kit in the home’s lowest living level, which may be the basement if it is often used. If not, place it in the living room.  
  • Place kits at least 20 inches above the floor in an area where it won’t be disturbed.  

Follow the mail-in instructions on your kit once you’ve finished the test, as you need to send the results in for testing. Do this by resealing the package and sending it to the lab specified on the package. Some kits will send email or text result notifications with your results within a week.    

For a better idea of your year-round average radon level, take a long-term test. Long-term tests remain in your home for more than 90 days. A long-term test will give you a reading that is more likely to tell you your home’s year-round average radon level than a short-term test. 

How do I remove radon from my home?  

If your radon levels are high, you should hire a state certified or qualified radon mitigation contractor. The first step is to check with your state radon office. 

Radon problems are typically fixed by bringing in a radon mitigation system, which uses a fan to continuously pull air from the soil and exhaust it outdoors via a pipe. 

The cost of a radon mitigation system in Michigan can vary significantly depending on where you are in the state and who you hire. A typical range in price would be $750-$1,500, according to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE).  

Stay up to speed on the latest trending news and advice on lung cancer awareness month by heading over to AHealthierMichigan.org 

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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