Living Healthy and Green Starts by Kicking Radon Out
Do you want to help your community step out on the green side of living and building healthier? EPA has developed a new media campaign, Living Healthy & Green, to educate Americans about the ease of testing for radon and building new homes radon-resistant. These unique public service announcements (PSAs) help remind Americans that a big part of “living green” starts in their home with breathing cleaner, healthier indoor air. Learn More about Radon Public Service Media Campaigns
Every Living Healthy & Green campaign element can be viewed, heard and ordered free on line at www.epapsa.com
Radon: The Health Hazard with a Simple Solution
Radon is a cancer-causing natural radioactive gas that you can’t see, smell or taste. Its presence in your home can pose a danger to your family’s health. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America and claims about 20,000 lives annually.
Test Your Home for Radon – It’s Easy and Inexpensive Fix your home if you have a radon level of 4 pCi/L or more.
The U.S. Surgeon General and EPA recommend that all homes be tested. You can test your home yourself or hire a professional. Fix your home if you have a radon level of 4 pCi/L or more. Radon test kits are available from the National Safety Council (or call 1-800-SOS-RADON). Some home improvement stores sell test kits. (Lowes and Home Depot both do) To find a qualified testing or mitigation contractor, contact your state radon office (see our list of state contacts) or either of the national private radon programs.
Exposure to Radon Causes Lung Cancer In Non-smokers and Smokers Alike
Lung cancer kills thousands of Americans every year. The increase in deaths due to lung cancer has raised public awareness about lung cancer, especially among people who have never smoked. Smoking, radon, and secondhand smoke are the leading causes of lung cancer. Although lung cancer can be treated, the survival rate is one of the lowest for those with cancer. From the time of diagnosis, between 11 and 15 percent of those afflicted will live beyond five years, depending upon demographic factors. In many cases lung cancer can be prevented; this is especially true for radon.
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Sources of Radon
Radon escapes from the soil, into the air and into buildings and homes. The majority (69%) of radon that effects humans comes from the soil.18.5% comes from well water, 2.5% comes from building supplies, and 9.2% comes from outdoor air.
Normal levels found in outside air are 0.4 pCi per liter, which is considered safe by the EPA. The average indoor radon level in the U.S. is 1.3 pCi/L, also considered safe. When levels rise to 2.7 pCi/L, a person’s risk of lunch cancer rises 16%, according to the World Health Organization. The EPA recommends corrective action when the indoor level of radon reaches 4Ci/L.
Radon in Maryland
There are three zones in Maryland, each showing a level of average radon density. in Zone 1, the Red Zone, the following counties have a predicted average indoor radon screening level greater than 4 pCi/L: Washington, Frederick, Carroll, Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, and Calvert.
In Zone 2, Orange Zone, counties have levels between 2 and 4 pCi/L: Garrett, Allegheny, Cecil, Ann Arundel, Prince Georges, Charles and St. Marys Counties.
In Zone 3, Yellow Zone, there is low potential of high radon levels, less than 2 pCi/L: Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Caroline, Dorchester, Wicomico, Worcester, and Somerset Counties.
Legal Requirements in Maryland
Montgomery County recently passed a law requiring home sellers to conduct a radon test. The wording of the law is such that sellers can conduct the test themselves, or hire a professional. The test must be from a list of approved radon tests. (which you can find on the NRPP Website) Many on the list are low-priced kits you can get at Home Depot or Lowes. The Pro-Lab test is $20.
As of today, other counties do not require testing, but we expect that it won’t be long before the counties in the red zone follow Montgomery County in this requirement. Even though it isn’t mandatory, we encourage buyers to have a radon test with their home inspection, using a qualified radon tester. Even if the homeowner has carried out a radon test within 12 months of listing the home, it’s still a good idea to have your own test. With radon tests, you can’t know if there was human error involved. Better safe with your own test.
What if the Radon tests high?
If you find that the Radon levels are 4 pCi/L or higher, Radon mitigation will be required. There are three common radon remediation systems used in residential construction:
Active Subslab Depressurization (ASD) is a system designed to lower sub-slab air pressure relative to indoor air pressure by using a fan-powered vent. By drawing the air from beneath the basement slab through a pipe and out of the roof, radon is prevented from entering your home. Often only a single suction is needed. The cost is between $800 to $1500.
Passive Subslab Depressurization (PSD) uses natural pressure differentials and convection to draw air up a vent pipe. New construction homes in Montgomery, Howard, Frederick, Calvert, Washington, Carroll, and Baltimore Counties have PSD systems installed. These systems are ready to install a fan, if needed, to convert to an Active System, ASD.
Block-wall Suction can be used in basement homes with hollow block foundation walls. This method removes radon and depressurizes the block wall, similar to sub-slab suction.
As always, use a licensed, qualified inspector.
What About Asbestos?
While Asbestos is often not a naturally occurring substance like radon in our area of the country, it can be a health problem for Maryland homeowners. Naturally occurring asbestos deposits have been found throughout the country, particularly in parts of California and Montana. In these areas, simple outdoor activities such as gardening or riding a bicycle may disturb asbestos fibers and release them into the air, where people may ingest or inhale them.
Asbestos was used often in both commercial and residential construction prior to the 80’s. The small amount that is still used annually goes into products that require fireproof and heat resistant qualities. Products which may still be made with asbestos include protective clothing, pipe insulation, brake linings and similar materials
Other products historically known to contain asbestos include:
- Floor tiles
- Ceiling tiles
- Asbestos Cement
- Wall panels
- Boiler insulation
- Electrical insulation
- Spray-on fireproofing
- Wallboard joint compound
- Wall and attic insulation
- Asbestos paper and millboard
The Pleural Mesothelioma Center is an organization that provides information and answers for people struggling with pleural mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused from exposure to asbestos.
Thanks for an informative guest post:
David Goldberg – Home Inspector phone: 301-913-9213 fax: 301-774-4554
ASHI Member #101584 MD License #29322
Reliable Home Services is a qualified Radon Tester