Is your home radon proof? - WNEM TV 5

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Is your home radon proof?

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

Do you know the last time your home was checked for radon gas? If you can't answer that question, it's probably time to get it done.

The gas has been linked to diseases like lung cancer and a simple test could save your life.

Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer. A cancer causing gas that is an unwelcome guest in any home. It rises from the ground and seaps into your house. Kim Mack was so worried about it she had her home tested.

"Our basement had received water and we had that fixed. And we had that fixed and we thought that the two were kind of synonymous that if you have water problems you might have radon problems as well," says Mack.

Mack didn't wait for the results of her test to come back to take action. She called Swat Environmental, a radon mitigation company. They installed a system that lowers radon levels immediately.

In the U.S., lung cancer caused by radon takes away 21,000 lives a year. That's more than drunk driving. More than falls in the home, drownings, and house fires combined.

Here in Michigan, radon amounts vary depending on what county you live in. Most of our area is in the low to moderate risk category. But that doesn't mean you can let your guard down.

Bryant Wilke is with the Saginaw Department of Public Health. He says the only way to know how much radon you are dealing with is to take the test-regardless of where you live.

"It can be an older home, it can be a brand new home. The potential is there unless you test and know for sure radon could be lurking in your basement," says Wilke.

Here is how the radon test works:

  1. Make sure you're at the lowest level of your home. I'm here at my house in my basement.
  2. Place the test at least three feet away from exterior doors, windows, and other openings in the foundation or walls.
  3. You place a special filter in the envelope. The filter controls the airflow. The charcoal in the envelope collects the radon.
  4. Finally, hang it from the ceiling and you should know within minutes.

The Environmental Protection Agency has been trying to raise awareness about radon testing for years.

According to the E.P.A., radon levels are measured in what's called picacuries or PCI per liter of air. If your home tests higher than 4 pci per liter, you need to take action.

It could be as simple as sealing cracks in your basement. Or you may have to take more drastic measures like calling in a professional to take care of the problem.

Aaron Jones is vice president of Swat Environmental. He says his company can install a mitigation system, like the one at Mack's home for about eight hundred dollars.

So what if your home tests for high levels of radon? Is lung cancer right around the corner? Not exactly according to one health expert.

Doctor Jay Nayack is an oncologist at the Covenant Cancer Care Center. He says many factors could play a role into whether or not you develop lung cancer from radon gas. Those factors include years of exposure, if you are smoker and your age.

But Nayack does say if you don't feel good, don't take chances.

"If you have any symptoms suggestive of that then yes you definitely need to see your medical doctor and get screening for that," says Nayack.

Meanwhile, Mack is grateful that radon exposure is something she won't have to worry about anymore. Now that her home is equipped with a system designed to keep levels in her house to just under one pica-curie per liter.

The Department of Public Health is offering free radon tests. All you have to do is tell them you saw this story on TV5 and they'll give you a free kit.

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