With the beginning of the new year, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is encouraging homeowners to test for radon gas to start their year off safely.
“High radon levels have been found in nearly every county (in Pennsylvania),” said Deborah Klenotic, deputy communications director for DEP.
Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America, according to the EPA. It estimates about 1,500-1,700 cases of lung cancer per year are due to radon exposure.
Radon is measured by picoCuries per liter (pCi/L), which is a measurement for radiation. The EPA established four pCi/L as the top limit for human safety.
According to the American Lung Society, smokers exposed to 4 pCI/L are five times more likely to die to lung cancer than the average person is to die in a car crash. Nonsmokers exposed to the same level are in as much danger of dying to lung cancer as they are of dying in a car crash.
Radon gas forms during the decomposition of uranium and radium. Pennsylvania has slightly higher levels of these, leading to a greater danger of radon.
“Plus,” Klenotic said, “(Pennsylvania) has the right soil characteristics to allow radon to move easily through the soil into a structure.”
Radon mostly enters homes through cracks in the foundations of houses, unsecured pipes or open to air crawlspaces. The gas is most concentrated in basements of structures, but the amount of gas is based on geology and not on the type of building, according to Klenotic.
“It can be very house specific,” she said. “One house can have a high level, and the next door neighbor may have a low level.”
Stanley Wensel, owner of Stanley Wensel General Contractor Inc., stated he has had to deal with radon a lot in constructions in Huntingdon County.
“Anytime we build a house, we build it with a radon system into the house,” said Wensel. “It’s something better to do when building then to have to come back and pay a lot of money to do it later.”
He continued, “We’ve had (radon gas) come up a lot. We build all over the county, into Centre County, and run into radon gas a lot.”
“Data reported to DEP from the radon industry shows that Huntingdon County tends to be on the high side (of radon gas),” Klenotic said. “The average level was 10.7 pCi/L.”
Short term radon tests can be purchased at local hardware stores, and Klenotic recommends people start with the short term tests before following up with a second short term test or a long-term test. If the second test reveals the measurement is still high, homeowners should install a mitigation system.
Ultimately, radon gas testing is less expensive than dangerous issues that can arise.
“It is a very dangerous issue that, if left unchecked, can cause serious health problems,” Wensel said. “It is wise to have your home checked.”
“Testing is easy and inexpensive, and could save your life,” she said.
For more information about radon testing, visit epa.gov/radon
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