(The Center Square) – January is Radon Action Month in Illinois.
Every year, hundreds of lung cancer cases could be prevented if people test their homes to find out the level of radon inside. If the radon levels are high, they can be brought down by installing a remediation system.
Elliott Wall, president of Elliott and Associates Radon Remediation in Chicagoland, told The Center Square that every house has some radon penetration. The level of danger depends on how high the radon levels are.
“Every house needs a test to determine the risk level,” Wall said.
Radon test kits cost under $15, and most hardware stores sell them. People can also call in professionals to do the tests for $120 to $160.
“Do-it-yourself kits are fine if people read the directions and follow them carefully,” Wall said.
Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that is produced from the natural decay of uranium in the soil. It seeps into houses through tiny cracks and crevices in the foundation and then gets trapped. Since radon is released from rocks, soil and groundwater, its levels are the highest in basements or lower levels of homes and buildings that are close to the soil.
With the popularity of home offices and basement bedrooms, the risk of lung cancer from radon has increased, Wall said.
“The longer a person is exposed, the greater the risk,” he said. “If someone is working in the basement all day or if children are playing and sleeping in the basement, I’d recommend getting the levels below 1 picocurie.”
Houses without basements may be at greater risk for radon contamination.
“A slab-on-grade home where people spend most of their time on the first floor can mean more exposure to radon,” Wall said. “Most people don’t spend a lot of time in the basement.”
No level of radon is considered safe, but roughly half the houses that are tested fall under EPA recommended guidelines of 4 picocuries of radon. Homeowners in Illinois are not required to install a radon remediation system if the radon levels in a home fall under 4 picocuries, Wall said.
The World Health Organization has a stricter standard, recommending having a remediation system installed when the radon levels exceed 2.7 picocuries of radon.
Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in Illinois after smoking. Smokers who live in homes with elevated radon levels are 10 times more likely to get lung cancer than nonsmokers who have the same exposure to radon.
“Lung cancer caused by radon is 100 percent preventable,” Wall said.
Radon remediation systems are simple to install and easy to maintain, he said. The cost of a simple remediation system starts at $1,800.
“The technology is there for people who want it,” he said.