Protect Your Family from Radon, Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency encourages consumers to test their homes for the element

Protect Your Family from Radon, Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer
Image: Pixabay
January 5, 2017

Happy January, otherwise known as National Radon Action Month! The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is encouraging everyone to test their homes for radon, a chemical element in indoor air that is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

"January is the time when we remind everyone to 'test, fix and save a life.' That's because lung cancer due to radon can be prevented by testing, and if needed, fixing your home. It's a simple and important way to help safeguard your family's health," said Jon Edwards, Director of EPA's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air. "Testing is inexpensive and test kits are readily available and easy to use. Reducing your family's exposure to radon provides peace of mind, knowing that you're doing the right thing to help avoid the toll taken by radon-induced lung cancer."

The agency estimates that 21,000 Americans die every year from lung cancer caused by exposure to radon. Testing for the element is the only way to know whether there is an elevated level in your home. If the level is four picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air or higher, both the U.S. Surgeon General and the EPA recommend that you take action to fix your house. If your test result is four pCi/L or higher, you are encouraged to contact a qualified radon mitigation contractor.

Do-it-yourself radon test kits that are easy to use are affordable and available for purchase both online and at hardware and home improvement stores. Another option is to hire a qualified radon professional. If testing reveals a high radon level in your home, a radon-reduction system installed by a professional—using a vent pipe and an exhaust fan—will help to stop the element from getting into your house and instead will send it outside. In comparison with the risk of having to pay for lung cancer treatments, these reduction systems are very affordable, generally falling in the same price range as many common home improvements.

By reducing your exposure to radon, you are making a long-term investment in both your health and your home. If you want to sell your house, a reduction system in good, working order is a positive selling point when the house goes on the market—in many please, radon testing is a routine part of a house sale. If, on the other hand, you are looking to buy a new house, ask the seller if it has been tested for radon. If the levels are high, you can factor the costs of fixing the problem into the sale. Finally, if you are considering building a new home, work with the builder to use construction techniques that are resistant to radon.