Radon: A Sinister Gas

The local news, newspapers and magazines always tout home safety;  be sure you regularly test your smoke alarms, be sure you have a carbon monoxide detector, be sure you clean out your dryer vent to prevent fires – the list goes on and on.

But what truly amazes me is that I’ve never heard any of them ever suggest that if you live in a ground level structure, that you test your home for Radon gas.  This literally blows my mind.  My friends recently put a contract on a new home.  The home inspector tested it for Radon – it failed miserably – and the sale was put on hold until the sellers fixed it.

What makes Radon so sinister is that, like the invisible man, you can’t see it.  It is a colorless, odorless gas produced by radioactive decay of radium in the ground. It can seep into buildings through the floors, causing health concerns.

Even if you tested your home for Radon years ago, it is recommended you test your home every 2-3 years.  Over the years as your home gets older, ground can shift due to erosion, earthquakes, foundation cracks, etc., and suddenly Radon can be creeping into your home and into the air you breathe.

According to a Radon lab report:  Radon can potentially be hazardous to your health (particularly your lungs) if you are exposed to very high levels over time.  But don’t panic (Lord knows there’s enough of that going on already).  It’s not uncommon to have very low levels of Radon…that’s ok.  You just want to be sure that if you do have elevated Radon readings that you take action to fix the problem.

Tests are easy and inexpensive.  You can find them at some of your local hardware stores or online.  I found mine at Amazon for around $20.  It was super easy.  Just position the small charcoal test packet in your home as instructed, fill out a short form with the test dates and times, and then send it back to the lab for analysis via priority mail. The kit I ordered even included a pre-addressed jiffy bag to the lab.

Approximately ten days later, the lab emailed me the report. The report tells you if you have Radon, what your level is and IF you need to take further action.  They even list the website of certified Radon specialists.

Depending on where you live and your circumstances, the average cost to fix a Radon problem runs between $700 to $1,200.  Specialists (be sure they are certified) install a pipe through your floor (basement, garage or laundry room).  The pipe goes outside and vertically up the outside your house. It looks very similar to a regular spouting, but has vent at the top to release the gas.

Even though Virginia did not make the top 10 list of states that are high in Radon, Radon has been discovered in my area.  When it comes to our health, why take unnecessary chances?  Your home is probably fine, but a Radon kit is easy, inexpensive and can put you and your family’s mind at ease.

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