Radon Gas Risk in the Pacific Northwest
What is Radon Gas?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is invisible, odorless, and tasteless. It comes from the radioactive decay of radium, an element found in most rocks and soils. Radon can enter a building from the ground underneath it, and concentrate to tens or even hundreds of times the safe level in outdoor air.
Radon causes lung cancer. It is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the second leading cause behind smoking.
Testing for Radon
The only way to know if you have elevated levels of radon is to test. Easy-to-use, inexpensive test kits are available online and from many home improvement stores. Test kits range from $15 to $50. You can also hire a professional radon tester. The short term test kits measure radon over a period of 3-7 days. Long term test kits run from 8 days to one year. Since radon levels can fluctuate significantly from day to day, a long term test is required if you wish to know the true average levels. If your water comes from a well and your radon levels are elevated, it is advisable to conduct a radon water test.
Radon Risk Maps
Detailed radon level information for Washington is available by county at http://wa-radon.info/WA_counties.html. Data indicates that the highest concentrations of radon in Washington are in the eastern part of the state, around Spokane.
What is an acceptable level of Radon?
The US EPA has set an action level of 4 pCi/L. At or above this level of radon, the EPA recommends you take corrective measures to reduce your exposure to radon gas. This does not imply that a level below 4.0 pCi/L is considered safe. It is estimated that a reduction of radon levels to below 2 pCi/L nationwide would likely reduce the yearly lung cancer deaths attributed to radon by 50%
There are some simple ways to reduce elevated radon levels however once the radon presence has been confirmed, all remediation should be conducted by a licensed radon mitigation professional. This ensures proper remediation and reduces the risk of continued health risks.
Conclusion: While no level of radon gas is completely safe, a simple and inexpensive radon test can give you the information you need to make an informed decision about what level of radon gas exposure is acceptable to you.