January is Radon Action Month: Frequently Asked Questions about Radon
Q: What is radon?
A: Radon is a naturally occurring, cancer-causing, radioactive gas. Radon is released into the air we breathe when uranium in soil breaks down into a gas. You cannot see, smell, or taste radon.
Q: Why is it a concern?
A: Radon damages the lining of the lungs when it is inhaled. Over time, exposure can lead to lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US behind smoking. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
According to most recent data, 297 people died in Wisconsin from drunk driving, drowning or fire in 2015. It is harder to determine exactly how many people die from lung cancer caused by radon, but it is estimated that radon was responsible for over 350 deaths in Wisconsin in 2015.
Q: Where is it found?
A: Certain types of rock, such as granite, can contain uranium that breaks down into radon gas. Langlade County is at high risk because of the components that make up the soil in our area. Radon can get into any type of building through any type of foundation that has contact with soil.
The EPA recommends that any test result above 4pCi/L indicates a need for radon reduction in the home. Please visit the interactive map provided by the state that includes local data for radon test results at lowradon.org. For example, in Antigo, 62.2% of radon tests and in Bryant, 79.1% of radon tests have back as above the EPA recommended limit. This data is concerning, and the only way to know if you and your family is at risk is to test your home.
Q: When and how do I test my home?
A: Air currents can affect the testing so it is best to test during the winter months in a draft free area. There are several types of tests available, but the Health department recommends a short term test first to see if there is a problem, and if necessary, a long term test or second short term test to validate the first test. Short term test kits are available at the Health Department for $10.
Q: How is the problem fixed?
A: There are several ways that the level of radon in your home can be reduced. The most effective way is by installing a radon mitigation system that improves ventilation of the soil beneath the foundation. For a list of contractors in our area that are certified to do this type of work, contact the Langlade County Health Department at 715-627-6250.