January has been designated Radon Action Month. With people spending more time indoors due to the weather and the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s incredibly important to test your home for the presence of radon. Homes with high levels of radon have been found in every state, including Alabama. In fact, radon levels can vary greatly from home to home - even levels next door can be very different. Therefore, it’s recommend that all homes be tested for radon.
You can’t see radon. And you can’t smell it or taste it and that’s why it can be so dangerous. Radon may be a problem in your home and you wouldn’t be alerted by any signs of it’s presence. Radon is estimated to cause thousands of deaths each year.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas and is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States and the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers claiming an estimated 21,000 lives in the U.S. a year. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up and any home could have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well sealed and drafty homes and homes with or without basements. It can get into any type of building such as offices and schools. But you and your family are most likely to get your greatest exposure at home, where you spend most of your time. Radon from soil gas is the main cause of radon problems. Sometimes radon enters the home through well water. In a small number of homes, the building materials can give off radon, too.
Everyone should test for radon. Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk. Radon test kits are relatively inexpensive costing around $25.
“The best time to test for radon is during the colder months when your home is closed and radon levels are likely to build to their highest concentrations,” David Turberville, director of the Office of Radiation Control, Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH), said. “We encourage you to test your home by ordering a radon test kit.”
EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. Testing is inexpensive and easy, it should only take a few minutes of your time. You can fix a radon problem yourself, the reduction systems work and they are reasonably low-cost. Some radon reduction systems can decrease radon levels in your home by up to 99%. Even very excessive levels can be reduced to acceptable and safe levels.
While radon test kits are available at many larger home improvement stores, Alabama homeowners can order kits online through the National Radon Program Services at sosradon.org. A free test kit is also available from alabamapublichealth.gov/radon/radon-testing.html while supplies last.
More information about protecting yourself and your family is available from alabamapublichealth.gov/radon and from A Citizens Guide to Radon which is available at epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-12/documents/2016_a_citizens_guide_to_radon.pdf.