While most homeowners are aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide and the importance of maintaining smoke detectors, there is another potential hazard to be aware of in your home.
Excessive levels of radon in the home is a prevalent issue and agencies such as the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) are working to educate homeowners about the risks.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the nation and is classified as a "Class A" carcinogen.
Radon (Rn) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gaseous radioactive element that occurs from the natural breakdown of uranium in the soil and rocks.
According to DHSS, radon becomes a risk indoors because as it continues to break down, it emits atomic particles that upon entering the lungs can alter the DNA and increase lung cancer risk.
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air and there are estimated risks to health from the exposure depending on the concentration.
DHSS and the EPA recommend if the concentration of radon is 4 pCi/L or greater, then remediation should be done to lower risks. Smoking greatly increases the risk of cancer in environments with elevated radon exposure.
Tom Manz with ResCom Radon Solutions in Blue Springs, is certified for residential, multi-family and large building testing and mitigation, and has had the opportunity to test and mitigate several school district buildings in the West-Central Missouri area.
“Radon is a serious health hazard but thankfully there is a simple and relatively inexpensive solution,” Manz said.
“The EPA has determined that the KC Metro area is in radon intensity level 1 which means that 40-50% of the homes tested would have an elevated level above 4.0 pCi/L (picocuries of radiation in a liter of air). The World Health Organization which primarily covers Europe and Canada has set their “action” level at 2.7. Action level is a term used to alert homeowners that radon reduction is strongly recommended. We frequently find homes in the Eastern Jackson County area that test in the 8.0 – 12.0 range. However, we have had some test as high as 50.0 – 60.0”.
Despite the health risks, public health experts and practitioners such as Manz find that most homeowners are unaware of the issue.
“Homeowners and buyers are generally unaware of the health hazard of radon as well as the frequency of elevated radon in this area. Realtors are home sellers’ and buyers’ primary source of information and many realtors are encouraging buyers to do radon testing during the home inspection process. However, there is still a large percentage of realtors that are uninformed or don’t promote testing. Most newer homes have finished basements frequently used for bedrooms, home offices, media rooms, etc. where family members spend a large amount of time. This makes radon testing and awareness even more of a critical issue. More education is definitely needed as state laws in Missouri do not require radon testing be done in the sale process.”
DHSS provides a wealth of information on their website, https://health.mo.gov/living/environment/radon/, for homeowners and potential buyers. Manz also offers to meet with realtors, HOA’s and other community groups to provide radon information
“At our annual Region 7 EPA radon stakeholders meeting, there is always a speaker who has radon-induced lung cancer, most of the time having been unaware their home or workplace had unsafe levels of radon. We also know people who have lost family members to radon-induced lung cancer locally which needlessly takes the lives of over 20,000 people each year. This really drives home the importance of the radon testing and mitigation industry. The frequently used motto for radon awareness is, TEST – FIX – SAVE A LIFE,” Manz said.
Manz emphasizes the need for homeowners and potential homebuyers to seek out qualified radon contractors.
“Reputable radon contractors are certified through the AARST – NRPP (American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists – National Radon Proficiency Program) which is the leading EPA-recognized organization that oversees training and certification of radon contractors.
Missouri does not currently require state certification for contractors, but a listing of certified radon contractors may be located and verified at www.AARST-NRPP.com or https://health.mo.gov/living/environment/radon/.
Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services currently offers free test kits for Missouri residences from October 31 – March 31 each year.
Radon test kits are also available year-round for purchase at most home improvement stores and online. Most kits run $10—$20, which includes the cost of mailing and reading the results.
If elevated levels are found in a home, a contractor can install a mitigation system to lower radon levels. A standard radon mitigation system ranges from $700—$850, according to Manz.
For more information, contact Missouri’s Radon Program at 573-751-6102. Manz can be reached by phone at 816-804-1791.