January is Radon Awareness Month, and Western Pennsylvanians should take the time to learn about it. Radon comes from the breakdown of trace amounts of uranium in our soil. As a gas, it moves up into our homes where it is trapped and presents a danger to us in the form of lung cancer. Even at levels below the recommend remediation level of 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L), radon can still be a danger; however, zero radon is considered impossible to achieve through modern remediation technology.
Pennsylvania measures high in radon levels when compared to other states. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, 43% of the homes in Allegheny County, 51% in Butler and 58% in Beaver measure high in radon. Because of the high levels of radon in Pennsylvania, lung cancer is usually found and diagnosed later in the disease progression.
What can you do? Test your home. Licensed Measurement Technologists can be found on the state DEP web side. Self-test kits can be found at some local hardware stores, and you can even get one at the Breathe Pennsylvania online store.
Additionally, when you buy a home make sure it is tested. You can’t be forced to buy a home with high radon in Pennsylvania. It is a great opportunity to have a home remediated before you move in. When you are selling a home, please make sure testing protocols are followed. Most home sellers do abide by what is requested of them, but as a former licensed tester I have encountered home owners who cheat to get a positive result.
If you find high levels of radon, immediately call the state DEP for a list of qualified mitigation contractors who can help. If you ignore it or try to fix it yourself, you potentially put your life or someone else’s in danger and you might actually increase radon levels in your home. Knowingly tampering with an ongoing radon test also is illegal. In the end radon can be remediated, and dong so not only benefits present owners, but future ones as well.