Radon — a tasteless, colorless, odorless gas — is everywhere. It comes from the decay of uranium in soil and then accumulates in homes, where it can become dangerous.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), "elevated levels of [radon] are the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers."
Radon in buildings is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). What that actually means is less important than knowing when your home has exceeded the safety threshold of radon pCi/L. EPA standards place the "take action" level at 4 pCi/L, meaning if radon levels reach or surpass that in a home, business, school or other building, the stewards of that building should do something about it.
The national indoor average radon level is 1.3 pCi/L, far below the level necessary to take action. In Santa Clara County, according to the website California Radon Information, the average level is exactly the same, 1.3 pCi/L. Over the hill in Santa Cruz County, they are much closer to the danger zone at 3.6 pCi/L. Six percent of homes in Santa Clara County are above the 4 pCi/L threshold.
In a recent radon testing sweep of the county, Los Gatos and Saratoga proved to be problem areas for radon with 25.3 and 16.3 percent of homes testing in the danger zone respectively. Elsewhere, Palo Alto had a 16.3 percent rate above 4 pCi/L and Sunnyvale came in at 13.5 percent. Areas like Gilroy, Morgan Hill and Milpitas did not have a single home test at alarming rates.
But high radon levels do not doom us all to cancer. There are a few steps that can be taken to prevent risks presented by radon:
- Test. There are do-it-yourself radon testing kits available online and at hardware stores.
- Fix: Contact a radon reduction contractor if your radon level is too high.
- Save a Life: According to the EPA, 21,000 people die of lung cancer every year. Staying on top of dangerous radon levels is an easy way to prevent death.
To find a qualified radon professional, obtain a test kit or contact your state radon office, visit www.epa.gov/radon or call 1-800-SOS-RADON.