January was National Radon Action Month and the hard truth of radon is that it is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home. The surgeon general has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Everyone would like to believe their homes are safe, but the reality is that all homes have radon exposure. The important question is how much?

This radioactive gas has been found in homes all over the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. Typically, radon moves up through the ground into the air in your home. Radon makes its way through cracks and other foundational holes. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated that nearly 20,000 lung cancer deaths are caused by radon each year. This makes radon the second leading cause of lung cancer, right behind tobacco. Nearly one out of every 15 homes in the Unites States is estimated to have elevated radon levels. The action level for radon set by the EPA is at 4.0 picoCuries per liter (pCi/l). About one out of every three radon measurements performed in Kansas is above the action level of 4.0 pCi/l. 

If levels in your home are tested at or above the action level, you are recommended to fix the problem by mitigating your home. This process entails a pipe being installed from the base of your home to the roof or attic. Since radon is most often released from ground soil, this pipe minimizes the radon exposure to the inside of your home. Mitigation systems must be installed by certified radon mitigators. 

For more information on this topic, visit the K-State Research and Extension Office – Leavenworth County or give us a call at 913-364-5700. 

Chelsi Myer is a family and consumer sciences agent for K-State Research and Extension – Leavenworth County.