Testing for Radon

By Hannah McKenzie | March 20, 2017

Q: Is radon a concern in homes with crawl spaces, and should I get a test?

A: Testing for radon is inexpensive and a commonsense way to minimize the chances of lung cancer in your household. Radon is more prevalent in certain parts of the state than others, but it is worth inspecting no matter where you live.

What is radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is emitted when uranium decays. Uranium is found in trace amounts within rock formations all over the world. Radon gets into buildings most often through the soil beneath them, and occasionally through the groundwater. Once inside the building, the gas gets trapped and accumulates.

What’s the big deal?

The concern about radon comes from research showing an association between radon and lung cancer. The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that there are more than 150,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the U.S., and that 15,000 to 22,000 of those deaths are related to radon exposure. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.

What’s the solution?

Fortunately, the number of lung cancer deaths attributed to radon can be reduced if people test and fix their homes. Why homes? If you consider the number of hours people are at home versus work versus school, the majority of people’s time is spent at home.

Testing is easy and inexpensive. Visit www.ncradon.org to purchase a short-term radon test kit. A kit costs less than $5 or is free if you have a newborn. It requires opening a plastic bag, setting a tester in an appropriate location, and getting it out in the mail within the stipulated number of days. That’s it!

If your test detects a problem, it can be a relatively affordable home repair—comparable to installing an exhaust fan. You can find a certified radon mitigator to perform the work at www.ncradon.org.

Don’t make assumptions.

Both drafty houses and energy-efficient houses should be tested, as should homes with crawl spaces, basements or slab foundations. If you live in a new house, don’t assume that the builder tested for radon. It is not a North Carolina building code requirement.

Don’t make assumptions based on your type of house or its location. Testing for radon is a must. Being knowledgeable and addressing the problem, should one exist, will reduce future health risks.