Radon is radioactive gas that naturally occurs from decaying uranium in our soil. It’s a killer. It causes more deaths per year (21,000) than drunk driving. North Dakota and Western Minnesota are in the ‘red zone’1 which means we have a high concentration of this cancer causing stuff.
We (well, most of us) take precautions against the radioactive energy the sun emits. We use sunscreen, hats and wear sunglasses to avoid injuring (tanning or burning) our bodies and eyes. We are aware of the harmful effects the sun’s radiation has on us. But most of us have never heard of radon and yet it is the second leading cause of lung cancer among smokers and the top cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.2
Radon is insidious and it’s not just a house problem. It is in schools, dorms, work places, churches, apartments, day cares, etc. It can take years and years for the destructive effects of it to show up. And it’s not just from the ground, ooooh noooooo! This stuff can be in your water supply, although it’s much more common if you use well water or your city uses ground water (water held under ground). You will be exposed to it, although minimally, every time you bathe, drink or use water.
Before I continue, I want to share two things. The first is a story about a client of mine whom I had intuitively asked, “Are you a closet smoker?” She said, “No! Never!” and I said, “well, there’s something with your lungs.” She put it together and came up with the fact she needed to get her (Minnesota farm) house tested for radon. She told me, after having a radon mitigation system installed, her breathing became easier and she had more energy within two weeks. To quote Polly, “It was as if I had a new life.”
The second is my daughter who has had a swollen lymph node on her neck since she was six months. The doctors aren’t at all concerned because there hasn’t been a change in the size of it. I, on the other hand, am concerned. I know this lymph node issue could be related to the radon in our house. After all, she didn’t have it at birth and her bedroom is directly above the room that contained the highest concentration of radiation.
What orginally brought radon to my attention was an article in the Fargo Forum a few years ago. I got a bit excited (hyper!) about it at first but that’s where I left it. Then Polly’s story…and Ceta’s lump.
We had contacted the radon mitigation company Polly used but they were leery about the results given the location of our sump pump. I let it go until my mother-in-law put an offer on a home in West Fargo. She, a survivor of lung cancer, had the radon levels checked. They were, of course, very high. As part of the sale, she stipulated the house must have a professionally installed, working radon mitigation system.
I should also mention that just because your house, or your neighbor’s house, has high radon levels, it doesn’t mean yours (or theirs!) will. It’s kind of a crappy luck of the (decaying uranium) draw.
This blog now becomes another story of when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. I called the dude who installed her mitigation system, explained about our sump pump placement and he said he could almost always find a solution. And he didn’t let us down.
We hired Valley Radon Mitigation and after Chris installed our mitigation system, our radon levels dropped from 13.0 to .08 in two days. Did I mention the radon levels dropped from 13.0 to .08 in TWO days?! All he did, and this is generalizing, was cut a hole in our furnace room floor, run a pvc pipe to the outside and installed a fan to move the radon away from the house.
What can you do? Have your home tested. We purchased our radon kits at a local hardware store and sent them in to be analyzed, but you can also hire a qualified radon tester (I actually typed, ‘texter’!!). To find a qualified radon tester, you can check with your State Radon Office (yes, evidently, there IS such a thing!), your neighbors or even search google.
Next, know what levels are acceptable for your area. The EPA states anything 4.0 and above must be fixed and anything less can still pose a risk and, in many cases, should be reduced. As I stated above, all of North Dakota and a large chunk of Minnesota (all except the Iron Range) is in ‘red’ meaning the soil contains a high concentration of this cancer-causing radiation.
Then find a reputable, professional radon mitigator(s). Have them come and take a look, get quotes. But be careful! Some companies are quoting $6,500 because they carry a ‘certified’ label. Generally, the price averages around $1200. According to the EPA, the expense should be the same as “other common home repairs.”
Then, take action. Hire that someone. Get. It. Done. It only takes about 6 hours for a professional to install a radon soil mitigation system. The results are almost instantaneous and, dare I say, life changing (saving?). Yes, I dare. Rebel.
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