Are your kids exposed to radon?
If you are a parent like I am, your number one goal in life is to protect your children from harm. The day they are born, your world changes. You look into your child’s eyes and suddenly it all makes sense, this is what it is all about.
That first trip home from the hospital is the first time in years that you have driven 10 mph under the speed limit. You purchase a space age, video surveillance and audio system to watch their every move as they peacefully sleep in their crib. As they grow old enough to crawl, you install locks on every cabinet to prevent your bundle of joy from getting into anything dangerous. You check that your home is free of germs, chemicals and lead based paints. What about radon gas? Would you allow someone to smoke in a room with your child? According to the EPA, radon causes 7 times more lung cancer deaths than second hand smoke.
Could your child be breathing radon gas in your home? It may be more likely than you think. Millions of American homes have radon gas levels that are higher than the EPA radon action level.
What is radon gas? Radon is a radioactive gas that is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It is odorless, tasteless and colorless. It comes from the breakdown of uranium in the soil and can enter your home through the foundation or crawl space. Radon gas is heavier than air so it tends to be higher the lower you are to the ground.
Note: A child crawling on the floor may be breathing higher radon levels than the adults standing in a room. Many childrens bedrooms are in basements where radon levels tend to be higher.
How to check for radon:
You can find out if you have radon levels in your home by performing a radon test. Typically, people use DIY radon test kits that can be purchased online or in hardware stores. Short-term radon tests can help understand if there is risk sooner but long-term radon test kits give the best overall picture of radon levels in homes. Many home inspectors and other radon measurement professionals can perform a radon test using a calibrated radon measurement devise. These machines can show the fluctuations of radon levels over a period of time and print a radon test report that can be used for a real estate transaction or radon mitigation plan.
How to prevent radon:
Radon gas can be prevented with radon mitigation systems. These systems are like a vacuum for the soil under your home. They are installed by certified radon remediation professionals and are permanent components of the home. They are comprised of suction pipes that enter the soil under the concrete floor or a crawl space vapor barrier, a radon fan, and an exhaust pipe to vent the radon gas out into the atmosphere above the home. They run continuously to grab the radon from the soil before it can enter the home.
I was recently at a radon conference in Utah. One of the speakers is a client of mine who found out he had lung cancer and has never been around a cigarette in his life. His story of survival brings chills to me every time I hear it. His advocacy to test for and prevent radon continuously inspires me to work hard to increase radon awareness and build the best radon mitigation systems. Also at this conference was an oncologist who specializes in lung cancer research. He made a point that inspired this article: He mentioned that lungs of growing children are developing at a higher rate than adult lungs. Could these cells that are constantly dividing be more vulnerable to radon gas? I’m not a doctor, but I don’t like the thought of my children’s developing lungs being exposed to radioactive radon.
Across the country, more and more people are taking action to reduce radon in their homes. Many states are beginning to pass laws to build homes with radon resistant features. This year, Illinois passed a radon law requiring daycare facilities to test for radon every three years. These facilities must notify parents and guardians of the radon levels that their children may be exposed to. This past week, the EPA announced the Federal Radon Action Plan, which “aims to reach 860,000 homes, schools and daycare facilities in 2013.”