January is National Radon Action Month and the Champaign Health District is promoting awareness of radon in the county. The Environmental Protection Agency determined that when test results indicate a level greater than 4.0 pCi/l (picocuries per liter), action should be taken to reduce the radon in a residence. Ohio testing determined that 29 percent of homes tested are above 4.0 pCi/l. In Champaign County, the average level is 9.0 pCi/l of all homes tested with 62 percent over 4.0 pCi/l.
What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the decay of uranium found in rocks and soil. Radon is odorless, colorless and tasteless.
Why is radon important?
Radon presence in your home is known to pose a danger to your family’s health. Breathing air with elevated levels of radon over time can cause damage to lung tissue and cells. This damage increases the risk of lung cancer. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer among smokers and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.
Why is radon a common problem in Ohio homes?
Much of the soil in Ohio contains quantities of uranium and radium. These minerals continuously break down and release radon gas. Therefore, Ohio’s geology provides an ongoing supply of radon. Although radon is present throughout the environment, radon levels indoors are generally higher, which increases the risk of cancer. Elevated levels of radon have been found in homes in all 88 counties in Ohio.
How does radon enter a home?
Radon, because it is a gas, it is able to move through spaces in the soil. Ohio homes tend to operate under a negative pressure, which acts as a vacuum (suction) to pull soil gases, including radon, into the lower level of a structure. This is especially true during the heating season. Air used by fireplaces, wood stoves and furnaces creates a vacuum effect, as do clothes dryers and exhaust fans that vent air to the outside.
Radon can enter a home through the floor and walls, anywhere there is an opening between the home and the soil. Examples of such openings include dirt floor crawl spaces, unsealed sumps, utility openings and cracks in the foundation floor and walls.
What happens after radon gets into the home?
Once radon enters a home it moves freely throughout the indoor air by means of diffusion, natural air movement. It can be distributed by mechanical equipment such as forced air ventilation system. As the radon moves throughout the home people are breathing it into their lungs. Breathing air with elevated levels of radon damages the tissue and cells in the lungs and increases the risk of lung cancer.
How can I find out if my home has a radon problem?
A radon test is the only way to find out if your home has elevated levels of radon. Performing a radon test is easy, inexpensive and can be done privately. Every home is unique due to its local soil, construction details and maintenance. Therefore, test results from nearby homes cannot be relied upon to predict the radon level in another home. Likewise, previous test results may not reflect current and future radon levels for a home. Remodeling, changes made to the heating, air conditioning or other ventilation systems, adding exhaust fans or other home improvements can influence radon levels in a home. The Ohio Department of Health recommends all Ohio homeowners test their homes for radon.
How can I protect my family from radon?
Fix your home. If your radon test indicates that your home has elevated levels of radon, have a radon mitigation system installed by an ODH licensed mitigation contractor. A quality radon mitigation system if often able to reduce the annual average radon level to below 2 picoCuries per Liter (2pCi/L) of air. The Indoor Radon Program at ODH can provide homeowners with a list of licensed contractors in their area. Simply filling in cracks and holes along the basement or slab in the home can reduce the amount of exposure. Increasing the amount of air exchanges from the outside or installing a radon mitigation device system can alleviate the problem.
The Health District is distributing coupons to Champaign County residents for a free radon kit. They are available at the libraries in St. Paris, Urbana, Mechanicsburg and at the Champaign Health District.
Where can I get more information on radon?
Additional information about radon can be found at:
*Ohio Department of Health
Indoor Radon Program
*Champaign Health District