Radon is found in 39 percent of Pa. homes. Here’s how to fight it | Monday Morning Coffee

January is National Radon Action Month. Now’s the time to get your home tested

By: - January 9, 2023 7:12 am

Row home facades on a residential street off Germantown Avenue in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

If you’re not buying a home, the chances are pretty good that you don’t give radon, a naturally-occurring radioactive gas, much thought. But if you are buying a home, or you currently own one, then you do think about it — a lot.

That’s because, if left unaddressed, radon can pose a serious health threat to you and your family. It’s responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year nationwide, and is the leading cause of lung cancer in people who have never smoked, according to the Pennsylvania branch of the American Lung Association.

As a recent report of the statewide public health and advocacy organization makes clear, radon, which is odorless, and can enter homes through cracks in floors, basement wall and foundations, has been detected in about 39 percent of homes across the commonwealth.

And because January is National Radon Action MonthLung Association officials are urging Pennsylvanians to get their homes tested for radon.

“Since radon is odorless, tasteless and colorless, the only way to detect radon in your home is to test the air. This is why it is critical for everyone to test their home,” Kevin Stewart, the state group’s director of environmental health, said in an email. “Radon Action Month is the perfect time to learn more about this dangerous gas and take action to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

(Image via The National Safety Counci.)

Do-it-yourself radon test kits are simple to use and inexpensive, the state branch of the ALA said in its email.

Based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards, anyone with radon levels at, or above, 4 picoCuries per liter (pCi/L), should take action to install a mitigation system in their homes. But any level of radon exposure is considered unsafe, according to the EPA.

“Both the EPA and the American Lung Association recommend that mitigation be considered if levels are greater than 2 pCi/L,” the state branch of the ALA said in its email. “After high levels are detected, a radon mitigation system should be installed by a radon professional.”

A typical mitigation system includes a vent pipe and a fan, as well as properly sealing cracks and other openings.

The system collects radon gas from underneath the foundation and vents it to the outside of the home, according to the state branch of the ALA.

“If you need to have a radon mitigation system installed, contact your state radon program for a list of certified radon mitigation professionals,” the advocacy group said

You can learn more about radon testing and mitigation at www.Lung.org/Radon.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.