Rock Talk

What to Know About Radon in Your Home

Last updated on May 16, 2017 at 02:40 pm

If you’ve purchased a home, you may have had it tested for radon as part of a home inspection. This is an important test because you’ll want to know if there are high levels of radon in your home so you can take action to protect your health.

What is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas that’s released when uranium, thorium, radium, or radioactive metals contained in rocks and soil break down. Like natural gas, radon is odorless, making it difficult to detect without special equipment. Because it’s a gas, radon is able to enter homes through openings in contact with the ground, including sump pump wells and tiny cracks around pipes and foundations.

The major health risk from radon exposure is lung cancer. In fact, it’s the number one cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers. Your risk for developing lung cancer increases with the amount of radon you’re exposed to, so it’s important to detect any radon issues early.

How do I test for it?

Testing your home for radon is a straightforward process. There are a few different ways to test for it: purchase a basic DIY testing kit from a store (many hardware stores carry them) or hire a testing company to perform an assessment. If you’re buying a home, you may also be able to have the home tested for radon as part of the home inspection.

Short-term tests lasting from two days to a week are available, as are long-term tests that measure exposures for up to a year. Long-term testing is considered to be more accurate.

If dangerous levels of the gas are found, there are techniques to help seal your home to prevent the gas from seeping in. Work must be performed by a mitigation professional certified by the state. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection maintains a comprehensive list of resources, including names of testing and mitigation companies.

If you’ve tested your home for radon, or done mitigation, share in the comments any experience you think might be helpful to others.

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