|What is radon and is it a health risk to me and my family?
Radon is an odorless, colorless and tasteless radioactive gas. It comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air that you breathe. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates radon to cause between 8,000 and 30,000 of deaths each year. That's because when you breathe air containing radon, you can get lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US today.
|What is the evidence?
More is known about the health risk of radon exposure to humans than about most other human carcinogens. This knowledge is based on extensive epidemiological studies of thousands of underground miners, carried out over more than 50 years worldwide. In February, 1998, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released the long anticipated study titled: Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) VI Report: "The Health Effects of Exposure to Indoor Radon." This report by the NAS is the most definitive accumulation of scientific data on indoor radon. The report confirms that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US and that it is a serious public health problem. As a result of this evidence the EPA recommends that homes with radon levels exceeding 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) be fixed, however, radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose some risk.
|Where is radon found?
Radon can be found all over the US, including in Western New York. If fact, Erie County has been designated by the EPA (EPA) as high risk "Zone 1" County.
Erie County Map
New York State Map
How does radon enter your house?
Because radon is a gas, it typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in your foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up to dangerously high levels. The EPA estimates nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the US has elevated radon levels.
Should I test for radon?
|You can't see radon, but its not hard to find out if you have a radon problem. All you need to do is test. It is easy, inexpensive and should only take a few minutes of your time. Remember testing your home is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon.
Erie County has available EPA listed short term testing kits for only $8.00 (includes postage and lab analysis fees). Kits are available through Erie County DEP by calling (716) 858-6370. Order a radon test kit now!
Remember, your test results are completely confidential. Erie County is only notified of your results by zip code.
|What should I look for when buying or selling a home?
If you are considering buying or selling a home the EPA has some specific recommendations:
- Have a radon test taken as soon as possible. Test in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy and finished. You can test your own home of hire a certified radon tester.
- Fix the home if the radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.
|As a result to the revisions of the Erie County Standard Residential Real Estate Contract (which now includes a radon notification and disclosure clause), Erie County strongly recommends that you test your home for radon before you list your home for sale. This may help avoid potential delays in the real estate transaction process.
You may wish to hire a certified radon measurement provider, especially if you are selling or buying a home. The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) has been instituted as a replacement to the EPA's radon measurement certification program which closed in 1998. Individuals listed with NEHA have been qualified through a process of education and examination to provide high quality radon services.
Erie County Test Kit
NSRB Radon Measurement Providers
|What if I have a radon problem?
The good news is that if you do have elevated levels of radon in your home there are simple ways to fix the problem that aren't too costly. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels. The EPA recommends that you take action to reduce your homes radon level if your test result is 4 pCi/L or higher.
How do I fix the problem?
A variety of methods can be used to reduce radon levels in homes. Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation is a basic part of most approaches to radon reduction (mitigation). In most cases however, sealing alone has not been shown to significantly or consistently lower radon levels. Usually a sub-slab depressurization system, which prevents radon gas from entering the home using pipes and fans can be installed. The average cost for making repairs to reduce radon depends on how your home was built and the extent of the radon problem. The average house costs about $1,200 for a contractor to fix it, although this cost can range from $500 to $2,500.
The EPA recommends that you hire a certified radon mitigation service provider. The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) has been instituted as a replacement to the EPA's radon mitigator certification program which closed in 1998. Individuals listed with NEHA have been qualified through a process of education and examination to provide high quality radon services.