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Invisible and invasive: Radon threatens Hoosiers at home

Date Published: 01/13/2020 [Source]

There's a one in three chance that radon levels are dangerously high in any Hoosier home, and there's no way to know without testing.

"The only way you know is to test," Kallie Sinkus, senior manager of the American Lung Association's environmental health team, said. "You can't see it. You can't smell it. Long term, it can give you lung cancer. It's a decaying gas."

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, causing more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Radon is produced by the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and is in the air. It enters homes through cracks and crevices and becomes trapped.

"It's like a vacuum pressure," Sinkus said. "The pressure differential pulls the gas up through the ground."

Most people don't think uranium rock is under their home, Sinkus said. But Indiana falls into the EPA's Zone 1, which has the highest threat for dangerous levels of radon in homes and commercial buildings.

Radon is measured in picocuries per liter, PL, and Zone 1 carries the highest potential for buildings to test at 4-10 PL.

Hoosier homes have a one in three chance of 4 PL or greater, which is the level at which authorities suggest homeowners get a mitigation system, Sinkus said, adding that every level carries some risk.

Mitigation systems should be installed only by licensed professionals and typically range in price from about $800 to $1,200, Sinkus said.