Homeowners insurance is meant to cover unexpected events, such as a vandal getting into your home or roof damage from a thunderstorm. Since radon slowly causes damage to home occupants over time, it doesn't fall under the policy's umbrella. However, whether you're buying a home or currently own one, radon is something to be concerned about.
Radon is a naturally occurring gas caused by the decomposition of uranium, a common element found in ground materials such as soil, water and rocks. As the uranium decays, it becomes radium, and the radium releases the radioactive radon gas. Radon doesn't have a color, scent or other visible sign for its presence. Naturally, radon gas is just about everywhere in the air and isn't harmful in the normal amounts. However, homeowners living with excessively high levels of radon are in danger.
Radon gets into a house from underneath, entering as it's released from the ground below. Levels above 4 picoCuries per liter, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, are a cause for concern. The air around you, on average, contains only around 0.4 pCi/L of radon. Breathing in radon in excessive amounts is known to cause lung cancer and is held as the second largest cause of lung cancer in the United States, just behind smoking.
A homeowner can test for radon using a short-term or long-term test. A short-term test lasts for anywhere from two days to three months, so it's recommended for homeowners for immediate concerns. Short-term testing won't give you an accurate picture of your radon levels year round. A long-term test stays in the home for over three months. The EPA recommends trying a short-term test first. If your levels are excessively high, you should follow up with a second short test before you take action. However, if the results are borderline, you may want to follow up with a long-term test instead. If you're buying a home, ask the seller for recent radon test results.
Radon Level Reduction
Contact a licensed radon contractor for mitigation work if you have excessive radon levels in your home. Your state's radon agency has information about contractors in your area. Radon mitigation steps and costs vary, depending on the problem and the home's structure. One common solution is the installation of a fan with a vent pipe system under your home, which forces the gas outward instead of up and into your home. Sealing any cracks or openings in your foundation may also lower radon levels.
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: How Radon Enters Your Home
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: Radon is a Cancer-Causing, Radioactive Gas
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: How to Test Your Home
- United States Environmental Protection Agency: How to Lower the Radon Levels in Your Home
- CNN Money: Your House Can Make You Sick
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