Is Radon Really Dangerous?
How dangerous is radon? We have lived for over 15 years in a house that has ranged from 17 to 32 picocuries of radon in the basement, where our family room, computer room, and play room are located. My husband doesn't want to spend the money to get rid of the radon.
Radon is a natural radioactive element that is produced by the breakdown of uranium in the Earth's crust. It's an odorless, colorless gas, and it seeps out of the earth more commonly in some places on the planet than others. It sometimes enters the basements of houses through cracks and pipes and becomes trapped there, concentrated in the air that we breathe.
Radon is strongly carcinogenic, and is believed to be the second leading cause of lung cancer - after cigarette smoking. It may account for as many as 30,000 deaths a year in the United States. Radon is dangerous, but I don't think anyone can say exactly how dangerous. You can have the air in your house testedfor radon, but if there's a high level, it's not clear what you should do.
Check with your regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency. Those folks can tell you how serious your problem may be and which ventilation systems work best. You also can get information on test kits and ways to reduce gas levels through the National Safety Council radon hotline at (800) 767 7236.
You can put an exhaust system in, which may remove the radon from the air coming into the basement. You can also cover and seal drains, pipes, and cracks in the foundation, where the radon could be leaking in. If the level stays at 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher and you are concerned, you may want to move to another house. Obviously, that's easier said than done.
The bottom line: Radon is dangerous, and if there's a significant level of it in your house, I think you and your husband should spend the money to do something about it.