Is Your Home Harboring an Invisible, Deadly Invader?

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Today we have a special guest post from Ross Quade over at!

Lung cancer. It’s commonly thought to primarily afflict those who suck down packs of cigarettes daily. While smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, radon is the second most common cause – and the number one reason among non-smokers.

Although some fortunate patients pull through, those with lung cancer face one of the lowest survival rates among people with cancer. From the time they are diagnosed, only 11% to 15% of those afflicted will live past five years. There are hundreds of thousands of lung cancer deaths in the United States annually. Beyond this staggering figure is the stark fact that most of these deaths are preventable.

Lung darts, cancer sticks, coffin nails. Let’s not point out all the obvious health risks surrounding smoking and the dangers of secondhand smoke. Rather, let’s discuss a lesser known hazard that is radon. It is the number one cause of lung cancer for those who do not smoke, and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall. Radon is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. These deaths could also be prevented. Plus, it’s a lot easier than kicking a smoking habit.

Radon is produced from the natural decay of uranium found in soil. It is a radioactive, colorless, odorless gas that seeps into all types of homes, old or new. It comes in through cracks in solid floors and walls, construction joints, gaps in suspended floors and service pipes, cavities inside walls and even through your water supply. Since you can’t see it, smell it or taste it; it’s important to test for it. Especially since it is estimated that nearly 1 in 15 homes have elevated radon levels.

The good news is that tests are inexpensive to buy and easy to perform. Plus, it should only take a few minutes. If radon is a problem, there can be simple and relatively cheap solutions.

To test your home for radon, you can pick up a kit at most local home improvement stores. Then just follow the instructions that accompany the kit. You can also purchase a test kit online. The National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University offer discounted kits. You can fill out this form for a discounted radon test kit or print out a coupon and mail it in.

You can also contact your state department that manages requirements associated with providing radon measurements or radon mitigations and reductions. Some states maintain lists of contractors, have proficiency programs or offer free or discounted radon test kits. Also, check out this handy dandy map with the average radon levels by county.

If you find that the levels of radon in your home are dangerous, you will want to take immediate action. The EPA recommends that you hire a certified and qualified radon mitigation contractor to fix your home. They are required to have specific technical knowledge, skills, and proper equipment to solve your radon problem. Without handling the situation properly, the radon level could actually increase, create additional hazards and costs. If you choose to do the work on your own, be sure to get the appropriate training courses.

You can visit your state radon office website to find a list of licensed, certified and registered professionals. If your state does not regulate radon services, be sure to thoroughly vet the contractor. Ask what certification credentials and professional proficiency they hold. Find out if they follow industry consensus standards, like the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and Standard Practice for Installing Radon Mitigation Systems in Existing Low-Rise Residential Buildings (E2121). There are also private proficiency programs that you can search for in your area.

The EPA provides a Consumer Guide to Radon Reduction, which gives a more in depth look at the dangers of radon, how to test your home and what the tests mean. It also discusses how to find a contractor to fix your home and how these improvements are completed.
Lung cancer from radon can be prevented, just like that caused by cigarette smoke. Testing for radon is quick, easy and pretty cheap. Take action to protect you and your loved ones against this invisible, deadly invader.