Back to the blog

Radon is an invisible issue in some homes

by Kim Shindle on

You can’t see, smell or taste radon, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. Homebuyers often don’t understand the importance of testing radon levels. However, radon has been detected in every one of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties and about 40% of homes in the state have levels above EPA’s action level value (4 pCi/L).

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, agree that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer – following tobacco smoke. Of the 154,000 lung cancer-related deaths annually in the U.S., about 20,000 of them are believed to be due to radon exposure.

DEP recommends that homebuyers test the indoor radon level in any home before they buy.  For those who want to be proactive, homeowners should consider testing their home before they get ready to put it on the market. That way they’ll know the results and if there’s a problem before listing the property.

Many homeowners don’t think about testing for radon in their homes. “One of the reasons is ‘out of sight, out of mind’,” said Robert Lewis, radon division chief at the Bureau of Radiation Protection in DEP. “Because they can’t see it or smell it in the basement, they think everything is okay and they don’t know they have a problem.”

The state doesn’t require radon testing, but that’s the only way to know if the home has higher-than-recommended levels of radon.

“Pennsylvania has some unique geology and we find uranium in the soil and it’s fairly widespread throughout the state,” Lewis said. “Homes are being constructed more energy efficient, which makes the airflow much tighter and can raise the radon levels. We really urge people to test their homes.”

“Just because a home tests at a higher than recommended level, doesn’t mean it can’t be fixed,” he added. “The cost of making the repairs to reduce radon levels depends on how your house was built, but usually the average costs range from $500 to $2,000.”

DEP recommends that homebuyers and/or owners take action on mitigating radon levels if it tests at 4 pCi/L or higher. A variety of methods can be used to reduce radon in homes. They include sealing cracks and openings in the house’s foundation, as well as installing a system that includes a vent pipe and fan.

“You can choose to use a DEP-certified radon-reduction mitigator to reduce the radon level in the house, or you can do the work yourself if you’re handy and know how,” Lewis added. “And once the system is in place, be sure that a post-test is performed to confirm that the previous elevated levels have been reduced.”

Homeowners can purchase radon kits at many of the home supply stores. A list of certified testers, mitigators and laboratories can also be found on DEP’s website at www.dep.pa.gov/radon.

Topics

Epa Radon Department of Environmental Protection DEP Environmental Protection Agency
Subscribe
Comments (2)

Comments

  • Ed Feese    September 24, 2019 | 11:36 am

    I have been hearing for many years that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. The EPA keeps saying that. But I have never seen any proof. So I don’t believe it. Have any of you ever heard of someone with cancer being told it was caused by radon? And had some proof.

    Reply to Ed Feese
  • Darwyn Benedict    September 24, 2019 | 5:56 pm

    I had a very dear friend die from lung cancer in the mid 1990s.
    She never smoked, no one in her house smoked.
    She did a lot of work in their household basement for church flowers every week for 30 plus years.
    She was the stay at home house keeper and the rest of the family worked outside the home.
    This was her parents home previously so she lived there for over 50 years.
    The area the home was located in is an area that we have seen Radon in the above 60 or higher testing.
    So not sure how they can say it was radon, just not sure how else you can account for her lung cancer.
    On another matter I am helping someone currently that had breathing issues this past winter and her dwelling had a Radon level at 28. The doctors have said it is a cancer. Just not sure yet as to why and how.
    Bad stuff as far as I am concerned.

    Reply to Darwyn Benedict

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *