Radon, a Silent Killer
By Stephanie Thiede, PHN
Q: What is radon?
A: Radon is a naturally occurring, cancer-causing, radioactive gas. Radon is released into the air we breathe when uranium in soil breaks down into a gas. You cannot see, smell, or taste radon.
Q: Why is it a concern?
A: Radon damages the lining of the lungs when it is inhaled. Over time, exposure can lead to lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US behind smoking. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
*Radon kills more than drunk driving, fires and drowning combined in Wisconsin!*
Q: Where is it found?
A: Geology plays a part in where radon is likely to be found. Certain types of rock, such as granite, can contain uranium that breaks down into radon gas. Radon can get into any type of building through cracks, holes, and joints in the foundation and other openings in contact with soil. 51% of the homes tested in Langlade County have elevated radon levels. However, the location of these homes does not necessarily follow a pattern. If your neighbor has a low level of radon, your home may have a high level.
Q: When and how do I test my home?
A: Air currents can affect the testing so it is best to test during the winter months in a draft free area. There are several types of tests available, but the Health department recommends a short term test first to see if there is a problem, and if necessary, a long term test to validate the first test. Short term test kits are available at the Health Department for $10. The kit should be put in the lowest living area of the home, either where you spend at least 7 hours per week or you exercise (basement, rec room, laundry room, etc). One kit is sufficient for 2000 square feet.
Q: How is the problem fixed?
A: There are several ways that the level of radon in your home can be reduced. For example, radon may be reduced by sealing cracks in the foundation and improving ventilation by installing remediation equipment. Installing remediation equipment can be done yourself, but you may want to have a contractor help you with this. For a list of certified contractors in our area that are certified to do this type of work, contact the Langlade County Health Department at 715-627-6250.
For more information, call the health department or visit www.epa.gov/radon.