Radon is tasteless, odorless, colorless gas that goes undetected by our senses. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. today. Testing is the only way to tell if your home has high levels of radon. There are no immediate symptoms, it could take years for problems to surface. Entering the home through the ground or groundwater, radon can be inhaled or ingested, leading to the potential risk of illness, cancer, or death. It is important to get your home tested for radon. Current studies show 1 in 5 homes have high levels of radon. If the home does have high levels of radon, the house can be vented properly to reduce the levels to a level that is not harmful to you and your family.
Where does Radon come from?
Radon is produced from the natural decay of uranium and radium, found in rocks and soil. Uranium breaks down to radium and radium eventually decays into the gas radon. Radon gas is in the soil and common throughout Michigan. Because soil is porous, radon moves through the soil and into the home. It can then accumulate in the air and become a health concern.
How Radon enters the home
Radon levels are very low outdoors, but can accumulate to high concentrations in the home. This depends on radon levels in the soil, pathways for radon to enter the home, and the driving force. Air pressure differences between the outside air and the inside air act to drive radon into the home. Some homes pull more radon into the home than others due to greater pressure differences and available pathways.
Radon in Michigan
Radon is a serious public health concern in Michigan. The average radon level in Michigan is almost twice the average radon level in the United States. This is due to our geology and how our homes are operated. Michigan homes are closed up or heated most of the year, which can result in higher levels of radon. In Michigan, one in four homes has a radon level that poses a significant health risk. Any home can have high radon, whether old or new, well-sealed or drafty and with or without a basement.
Is there a safe level of Radon?
Any radon level poses some health risk. While it is not possible to reduce radon to zero, the best approach is to lower the radon level as much as possible. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the action level at 4 pCi/L (picocuries of radon per liter of air). It is highly recommended that at 4 pCi/L or higher a radon mitigation system is installed to reduce the radon level.
Radon Health Risks
- Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer for non- smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer in smokers.Your risk for lung cancer increases with higher levels of radon and longer periods of exposure. If you smoke, the combined risk of smoking and radon exposure is much higher. Reducing smoking and radon exposure greatly reduces your lung cancer risk. For the U.S. general population who are exposed to 4 pCi/L of radon over a lifetime, it is estimated that 23 out of 1,000 people will die from lung cancer due to radon exposure.
How often should I test?
All homes should be tested for radon and tested again every 2-5 years. Retest after adding a radon mitigation system to make sure it is working properly. Test before and after you make changes to the home, like finishing a basement, adding an addition, or installing a vent hood in the kitchen. This also includes modifications to your home’s central air conditioning or heating system.