Hispanic couple sitting on the sofa reading a book at home with their baby son and young daughterYou can’t see it, smell it or taste it, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says radon gas is deadly. It’s second only to smoking as a cause of lung cancer.

Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. While smokers are particularly vulnerable, non-smokers aren’t immune. Nearly 3,000 non-smokers die each year from radon-related lung cancer, the EPA estimates. High radon levels occur in homes in every state and in every type and age of home. About one in 15 houses have it. Testing is the only way to find out your home’s radon levels.

You can conduct the test yourself with easily available kits, or hire a professional. Short-term testing — two to three days — gives you a snapshot of current conditions. Long-term testing of 90 days or more gives you a year-round average.

A reading of 4 pCi/L — just 4 “picocuries” per liter warrants further testing. A “curie” is a unit of measurement for radioactive substances. A picocurie is one-trillionth of a curie. What if radon is there at levels of 4 pCi/L or higher? First, the EPA states that any radon at all can be dangerous, though risk decreases at lower levels. If you’ve got elevated radon levels, a professional radon contractor can help.

Radon is a product of uranium, found in small amounts in nearly all soils. As the uranium naturally decays, it releases radon gas into the outside air, or into homes through openings in the foundations such as cracks. Trapped inside the building, the gas builds up. It can and does happen whether buildings are new or old, drafty or tightly sealed.

Radon contractors have several methods for reducing home radon levels. The “soil suction radon reduction system” is one of the most common. A fan pulls radon gas from under the house and vents it to the outside through pipes and vents. What’s right for your home depends on its design and other factors. Costs also depend on the home’s design, as well as the extent of the problem.

For detailed information on radon, including sources, risks, testing, solutions and prevention, visit the EPA at this link.