HARRISBURG – January is National Radon Action Month, marking a time of increased public awareness for this serious health hazard.
Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that occurs naturally through the breakdown of uranium in soil and rocks. It can seep into homes through cracks in basements and foundations, and can build up inside to concentrations many times the recommended level.
“Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States,” DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. “So protect your family and test for radon now.”
Radon is responsible for an estimated 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year, according to Environmental Protection Agency, and about 40 percent of Pennsylvania homes have radon levels above the EPA action level of 4.0 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). While radon problems may be more common in some regions, there is potential for any home to have high radon levels.
Pennsylvania is particularly prone to elevated radon levels, and the only way to know for certain if you have a radon problem is to conduct a test. DEP recommends that all homes, public and private buildings get tested. The best time to test is during the colder months, when homes and buildings are closed and radon is most likely to be trapped and build up to unhealthy levels.
Radon test kits are available at many home improvement and hardware stores, as well as from Pennsylvania-certified radon laboratories. Individuals may also hire a certified radon testing company, though most people can perform radon tests themselves. Completed test kits are sent to a Pennsylvania-certified lab where the sample is analyzed and the results are then sent to the home or building owner. The public is encouraged to call DEP’s Radon Division for help with interpretation of their test results and what follow-up action may be necessary.
Permanent radon mitigation systems typically cost between $800 and $1,200 and require minimal maintenance. Most home or building owners choose to hire a radon mitigation professional to install the system. A list of state-certified radon contractors is available at www.dep.state.pa.us, keyword: Radon. From there, click on “Radon Services Directory.” The list is also available by calling 1-800-23-RADON.