Testing for Radon

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

A: Testing for radon is an inexpensive and 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 groundwater. Once inside, the gas gets trapped and accumulates.

What’s the big deal?

The concern about radon comes from research showing its association with lung cancer. The National Cancer Institute estimates that there are around 135,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the U.S., and about 21,000 of those 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.

The North Carolina Radon Program has information on where you can purchase a short-term test kit, which goes for around $20 or is free if you have a newborn. The test requires opening a plastic bag, setting a tester in an appropriate location and sending 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 about radon based on your type of house or location. Testing is a must. Being knowledgeable and addressing any problems will reduce future health risks.