HELENA – Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium, a natural element in rocks, soil and water. Radon can enter and accumulate in your home, posing a hazard to your health by damaging your lungs. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking and secondhand smoke.
Testing for radon and acting to reduce radon levels in your home could save your life and the lives of your family. There are many radon testing devices available for sale at your local hardware store, online, county health offices, radon professionals, Kansas State University’s National Radon Program, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality Radon Control Program. The devices are easy to deploy and provide accurate results for the homeowner.
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air. The Environmental Protection Agency identifies 4.0 pCi/L as the "action level" for radon, meaning you should start investigating the possibility of lowering elevated radon levels via mitigation or ventilation. Studies indicate almost half of the homes tested for radon in Montana have radon levels that exceed the action level.
Radon can accumulate to unhealthy levels, especially during colder months when windows and doors are kept closed. Ventilating, or mitigating, radon gas from under the basement floor or crawlspace is a common approach to lowering radon levels and can cost $500 to $2,000 to address, depending on the degree of mitigation needed.
If you are building a new home, consider installing the preliminary parts of a radon system including a sub-slab gravel layer, plastic sheeting, vent pipe, and electrical box. Incorporating a radon mitigation system into home construction can save money and lives.
If it comes to mitigating high radon levels, you can do it yourself if you’re up to the challenge. Many homeowners hire a certified radon mitigator to install ventilation systems. Be sure to obtain bids from more than one mitigator, check their insurance coverage, and call their references before entering into a contract with a selected mitigator. The Radon Control Program webpage contains two sources of certified radon professionals at: http://deq.mt.gov/energy/radon
For more information about radon, contact the Radon Control Program toll-free at 1-800-546-0483 or by visiting the web site at: http://deq.mt.gov/energy/radon The websites of Kansas State University www.sosradon.org, and EPA are also informative: http://www.epa.gov/radon/ County health departments are also good sources for local information.