What gas is odorless, colorless and tasteless, but is cited as the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers? If you guessed radon, you are absolutely right. January is noted as Radon Action Awareness Month, so it is the perfect time to share up-to-date information on this important topic.
Radon surveys show 6 percent of homes in the U.S. have average concentrations above the recommended maximum level. However, the Kansas survey demonstrated one in four homes were high. This information is provided by Bruce Snead, K-State Research and Extension residential energy specialist.
So how does this cancer-causing gas enter a house? The most common way is it can seep from the soil beneath the foundation through cracks or joints. Another factor, soil porosity, under and around the basement or foundation, also affects the radon levels in homes and public buildings.
Detection of radon is relatively simple. We recommend purchasing a short-term radon detection kit. We have these available at both of our Cottonwood District offices (Great Bend and Hays). The kits cost $6.50, and we have a good supply available for purchase. Radon tests also can be found at hardware stores and on the internet, usually for $25 or less.
Testing is important, because it is the only way to tell how much of the gas is present. We advise people to test in the lowest level where they spend time, such as a bedroom, living or family room. Avoid testing in a kitchen or bathroom, since the higher humidity in those areas can alter the test results. The testing device needs to be at least 20 inches above the floor and be left in place for two to five days. The goal is to measure the potential for elevated concentrations that come from the soil beneath the homes foundation.
If the initial test result is 4 pico curies per liter of air or higher, a follow-up test is recommended. If you find that you need to contact a contractor to help mitigate radon, give me a call. I have an up-to-date list of certified mitigation technicians and laboratories providing services in Kansas. Certification through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for radon professionals was required starting in July 2011.
In Kansas, since July 1, 2009, residential real estate contracts must contain a specific paragraph recommending radon testing in real estate transactions and disclosure of test results. There are, however, currently no laws requiring such tests or mitigation of high levels of radon.
Consider testing your home soon. The cost of the test kit is a small price to pay for the peace of mind knowing the radon level in your home.
Donna Krug is a family and consumer science agent with the Great Bend office of the Cottonwood District of K-State Research & Extension.