Radon & Radon Resistant New Construction
The second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States is from exposure to Radon. Iowa is ranked #1 in the nation for the percentage of homes tested above the Environmental Protection Agency action level of 4 pCi/l. Information on the health effects of Radon, test kits, and recommendations for mitigation are available through this office.
Radon Resistant New Construction is the way to prevent exposure from radon and at a reasonable cost. When building a new home, radon resistant new construction techniques are easy to incorporate into the design of the home. For $300 to $500 additional cost to a new home, a passive radon reduction system can be built right in for a fraction of the cost of having to install a system after the house has been built.
Radon General Information
Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of radium, which is itself a decay product of uranium. Uranium and radium are both common elements in the soil.
The major source of high levels of radon in homes is soil surrounding the house that may contain uranium, granite, shale, phosphate and pitchblende. The radon gas from the soil can enter a home or building through dirt floors, hollow-block walls, cracks in the foundation floor and walls, and openings around floor drains, pipes and sump pumps.
Radon is often more highly concentrated in basements, ground floors and first floors of homes.
Radon problems have been identified in every state, and nationwide tests are being conducted to identify the extent and magnitude of the problem. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that as many as one in 15 homes in the U.S. has elevated radon levels.
Any home may have a radon problem. Homes without basements can have a radon problem. ALA and EPA recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. Testing in schools is also recommended.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, resulting in thousands of deaths each year in the United States. It is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
As radon decays and is inhaled into the lungs, its byproducts release energy that can damage sensitive lung tissue and lead to lung cancer.
For non-smokers, exposure to elevated radon levels can increase the risk of lung cancer much as smoking can. For smokers, exposure to radon is an especially serious health risk.
Radon levels are measured in Pico curies per liter of air (pCi/L). No level of radon is considered absolutely safe; however, the average indoor level is 1.3 pCi/L. The ALA and EPA recommend that action be taken when indoor levels are above 4 Pico curies per liter.
Testing for radon is easy and relatively inexpensive. And once identified, radon problems can be fixed by straight forward construction techniques.
People of all ages are well aware that smoking is the number one cause of lung cancer. However, they may be less familiar with the second leading cause of lung cancer; radon.
Families can protect themselves from the harmful effects of exposure to radon by conducting a simple, inexpensive test and making home repairs if needed. Dean Johnson, host of the nationally syndicated television home repair show "Hometime" and American Lung Association spokesperson for National Radon Action Week offers the following tips on home testing.
- Any home in any area can have a radon problem, even apartments if they are below the third floor. Millions of people have tested their homes for radon. It's a simple precaution everyone should take.
- You can test your home for radon quickly, easily and inexpensively. Do-it-yourself test kits are available for $6 from the Environmental Health Department in Carroll. Also, kits are available in most hardware stores and other retail outlets for $10 to $25.
- Be sure you choose a reliable test kit. Look for the words "Meets EPA Requirements" on the package.
- Depending on the type of kit you select, testing for radon can take anywhere from a few days to a year. Remember, the longer the test, the more accurate the results are in predicting the year-round radon levels of a home.
- If a short-term test indicates an elevated radon level, confirm your findings with a second test before taking action.
- If you prefer, a professional testing firm can test your home for you.
- If your home does have a high level of radon, do not panic. Radon problems are easily corrected. The repairs cost no more than many other common home repairs and will not change the appearance of your home. A variety of methods can be used from sealing cracks in floors and walls to changing the flow of air in your home.
- Always consult an EPA-listed or state-certified contractor. They can evaluate the problem and help you select the right solution.
- As when hiring a contractor for any home repair, you may want to get more than one estimate and check references.
- Contact the Environmental Health Department for additional information about radon, including the names of qualified radon contractors and testing firms. You can also call the National Radon Hotline at 1-800-SOS-RADON for more information.