You’ve tested your home for radon as we keep urging you to, and, surprise! You discover your levels are dangerously high. Now what?
First, relax: you’re not alone. One in 15 homes across the country tests positive for dangerous levels of radon, an invisible, odorless gas that causes lung cancer.
Radon is a radioactive gas emitted naturally from the ground. However, when radon gets trapped indoors—after entering a home through joints in walls, basement floors, foundations and other openings—it may concentrate at dangerous levels. And exposure to high levels of radon can cause lung cancer. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, responsible for an estimated 21,000 deaths each year in the United States, contributing to lung cancer’s status as the #1 cancer killer.
Fortunately, once you’ve identified that you have a problem, there are several concrete steps you can take as a homeowner:
1. Confirm that there is actually a problem
Most experts recommend testing at least twice before starting work to reduce your home’s radon levels. Levels do fluctuate, so your results could have been inconsistent. That’s why companies like Airthings—a manufacturer of indoor air quality products that monitor and identify radon levels—advocate continuous monitoring of radon.
(Note: To help raise awareness of the importance of radon testing and support lung cancer research, Airthings will donate $1 from each Corentium Home and Airthings Wave sold on Amazon.com through January 31, 2019 and on Airthings.com through September 30, 2019, with a minimum donation of $25,000 to the American Lung Association’s LUNG FORCE initiative.)
2. Hire a professional
Some fixes for a home that has elevated levels of radon could be DIY, including sealing cracks in the foundation, improving your home’s natural ventilation and creating room pressurization with fans. However, the EPA recommends that you have a qualified radon mitigation contractor fix your home because it may need a radon mitigation system installed. A radon mitigation system consists of a vent pipe, fan and the proper sealing of cracks. This system collects radon gas from underneath the foundation and vents it to the outside of your home. Contact your state radon office for a list of licensed radon mitigation professionals in your area. Detailed information about radon reduction in your home or building can be found in the EPA's Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction.
Your radon mitigation professional will likely retest your home for you once your new system is installed. However, you will want to continue to test your home. Even with a mitigation system, the only way to know your radon levels are in a safe range is to continuously test.
That’s it! You might have thought the process would be time consuming, expensive and complicated, but it’s actually pretty straightforward. Pricing to install a radon mitigation system will of course vary based on home size and region, but most people find the final price is reasonable for the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve prevented yourself and your loved ones from breathing in dangerous levels of cancer-causing radon gas.
And next time, if you are building a new home, don’t forget to ask your contractor to install radon-resistant features. These features include gravel and plastic sheeting below the foundation, along with proper sealing of cracks and the installation of a vent pipe. Once the radon-resistant features have been installed and the home is completely built, make sure to perform radon testing, as the levels could still be elevated. If the radon levels are still elevated, a radon fan should be added to the system to lower the radon level. EPA has more information on building a home with radon-resistant features.
Learn more about radon at Lung.org/radon. Questions about radon gas testing may be directed to the Lung Association's toll-free Lung HelpLine (1-800-LUNGUSA), and for a real-life example, see how our very own Kim Lacina mitigated radon in her home.
This content was developed in partnership with Airthings.
Blog last updated: March 2, 2020