Protecting Your Family From Radon and Lung Cancer

— Written By Katie Rangel and last updated by Dawn Stone

January is National Radon Action Month. What does this mean? The Randolph County Cooperative Extension Service (located at 112 West Walker Avenue, Asheboro, NC) is distributing FREE Radon Test Kits from the NC Radon Program. Please feel free to drop by and pick up a free test kit.

So what is Radon and why is testing for Radon in your house important? Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is invisible, odorless, and tasteless. Radon is released harmlessly from the ground into outdoor air. The problem with radon occurs when it gets trapped in homes and buildings and accumulates to harmful levels.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that radon is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the United States. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Since radon does not have an odor and is invisible, people tend to downplay the health effects and ignore the possibility that there might be a silent killer within the walls of their home.

Radon exposure can be spread throughout a county and houses in the same neighborhood can have very different levels, so every home should be tested. Testing homes for radon is simple and inexpensive. Radon test kits can be purchased at local hardware and home improvement stores or directly from radon testing companies that can be found online. If you are interested in testing your house for radon in Randolph County, feel free to come pick up a free test kit from the local Cooperative Extension office.

There are two types of radon tests: a short-term test and a long-term test. The short-term test runs for 2-7 days in your home. The long-term test runs for at least 91 days and up to 1 year. While the long-term test is more accurate, many people prefer the fast results from the short-term test. Radon specialists recommend conducting at least 2 short-term tests in the same location in your home before mitigating. If the results of one long-term test OR the average of two short-term tests comes back over 4 pCi/L, it is recommended that you fix your home.

There are several ways to fix the home or mitigate (lessen) radon in the home. It is best to hire a certified radon mitigator to fix your home because they have been trained on how to deal with radon. A list of certified radon mitigators can be found on the NC Radon Program website www.ncradon.org.

The most common mitigation method is called “sub-slab suction”. For sub-slab suction, a hole is drilled in the bottom floor of the home, a PVC pipe is inserted into the hole under the home, and then the pipe is routed through the home and discharged above the roof. A fan is then placed in the PVC pipe. When the fan is turned on, the gas from underneath the home is sucked through the pipe and safely discharged above the roof into the outdoor air. This prevents the radon gas from moving into the home from the soil. Mitigating a home for radon typically costs between $1200 and $1800 and is the only option for homeowners once a house has been built. However, for those building a new home, there is a more cost effective way to protect their family against radon. Building a home with radon resistant new construction essentially builds a radon mitigation system into a new home that is more effective, more aesthetically pleasing, and typically only adds $200-$800 to the cost of building the home.

If you are interested in learning more about radon-resistant homes or have any other radon-related questions, please visit the NC Radon Program’s website at
or call Radon Specialists Mike Lunsford at (919) 571-4141 or Catherine Rosfjord at (828) 301-8807. In addition, please remember that you can stop by the Randolph County Cooperative Extension office (112 West Walker Avenue, Asheboro NC 27203) and receive your own free radon test kit.