Radon is second only to smoking as the leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. About 20,000 people die each year in the United States from lung cancer related to radon exposure, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates. Radon is a tasteless, odorless, colorless gas emitted by uranium that occurs naturally in soil and water. Concentrations of radon are measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). Smokers are at an even higher risk of developing cancer when also exposed to radon. For most people, their greatest exposure to radon is in their homes.
While the average radon concentration in outdoor air is 0.4 pCi/L, the average air concentration of radon inside homes is 1.3 pCi/L. The EPA recommends taking action to reduce the level of exposure if the indoor concentration is above 4 pCi/L. Since there is no known safe level of exposure, the EPA says it might be a good idea to consider actions to reduce the indoor air level for any exposure above 2 pCi/L. The World Health Organization recommends that radon levels be reduced to 2.7 pCi/L or as low as reasonably achievable.
Free radon test kits are available in the Environmental Health Office in Room 303 of the Vanderburgh County Health Dept. located at 420 Mulberry Street in Evansville (phone: 812-435-5695)
Radon test kits may also be purchased online from the National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University (KSU) for a fee of $15 for a short term test kit (3-4 days) or $25 for a long term test kit (3-12 months). Phone: (800) 767-7236.
According to the KSU website, measures to reduce indoor radon exposure are inexpensive if included during construction and have side benefits of reducing moisture seepage and increasing the energy efficiency of the home. If added on after the building has already been constructed, retrofitting may cost from $800 to $2,500, as compared to from $350 to $500 in a new home. Radon-resistant features installed in most new homes should keep the level below 2 pCi/L.
Nationally, it is estimated that one out of every 15 homes has a radon level at or above 4 pCi/L. According to the Indiana Dept. of Environmental Management (IDEM) website, one in four homes tested for radon in Indiana have registered elevated levels of radon. The EPA’s map of radon zones for Indiana show over half of the state has a high potential for excessive indoor radon levels. Vanderburgh County and adjacent counties are in the moderate zone with a predicted indoor air average between 2 and 4 pCi/L.
If a house has been tested for radon, IDEM states that the information must be included on the Indiana Residential Real Estate Disclosure form. Indiana requires radon professionals to be certified. The mitigation contractor should provide the purchaser with a copy of his certificate or certificate number, and the purchaser should independently verify that the certificate is current by calling the Indiana Radon Hotline at 1-800-272-9723.
The Indiana State Dept. of Health also keeps lists of certified radon tester and mitigators: