Life Times Newsletter

Fall 2011
Vol. 13, No. 3



    Realizing the risks of radon

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Kandace Fisher, MS
Housing and Environmental Design Specialist


Radon is a gas you cannot smell, taste or see, but it is dangerous when it accumulates in your home. However, it can be detected to keep your family safe.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is found everywhere in the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. The National Cancer Institute states radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, being second only to cigarette smoking. Approximately 15,000 to 22,000 deaths per year are related to radon exposure.

Radon gas moves through the ground and into your home through gaps, cracks, and holes in the foundation. It can also get into the water supply of your home. Once the radon gas is in your home it can build up to dangerous levels.

Unfortunately, the only way to know if radon is present is to have your home tested. The good news is that testing is relatively easy and inexpensive. Now is a good time to add radon testing to your list of chores. Here are steps for testing your home for radon.

· Missouri residents can obtain a free radon test kit from the Missouri  Department of Health and Senior Services. An application form is available at  You can also purchase a low-cost radon test kit from your local hardware store.

· Follow the test kit instructions.
Windows and doors should remain closed during the testing period. Place test kit on the lowest lived-in level of your house. If you frequently use the basement, test there. If not, test on the first floor of your home. The EPA recommends testing in a room frequently used, like a bedroom, den, or playroom, but not in the kitchen or bathroom.

·   Send test findings to the lab specified on the package for analysis. Test results should come back in a few weeks. Radon is measured in “picocuries per liter of air” or “pCi/L”. If results indicate a level of 4 pCi/L or higher, you should have a follow-up long-range test performed by a professional.

To locate a professional in your area who specializes in radon testing and mitigation, contact:

Bureau of Environmental Epidemiology

      Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
930 Wildwood, P.O. Box 570, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0570
Phone: 573-751-6160 or 1-866-628-9891

      If levels continue to read high, a radon mitigation system will need to be installed in your home. According to the EPA, several methods exist to reduce radon levels in your home. One common method is to use a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from the soil under the foundation and vents it outside above the house. This system is known as a soil suction radon reduction system and does not require major changes to your home.
      Radon contractors may use a variety of methods. The right method may depend on the design of your home. In addition to installing the mitigation system, a contractor will recommend sealing any foundation cracks and openings in your home.
      The cost of reducing radon in the home can vary greatly. The good news is that radon levels can be reduced by up to 99 percent. For more information, see the EPA’s publication Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction, available at




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University of Missouri Extension Editor: Roxanne T. Miller