The Odorless, Colorless Risk

Did you know there is an odorless, colorless gas called radon that can also cause lung cancer?
The Odorless, Colorless Risk - Articles

Updated: September 4, 2012

The Odorless, Colorless Risk

You can't see, smell or taste radon, but it could be a problem in your child care center or home. Radon is produced during the natural decay of uranium found in soil, rocks and water and is found in the air, both inside and outside. It can enter any building through cracks in flooring and walls, gaps around pipes, construction joints, and even through the water supply. Buildings trap the gas as it enters allowing the radon concentration inside to increase to hazardous levels. While there are some locations across the country where radon is more prevalent, hazardous levels can be found anywhere in the United States.

How do you know if you have a radon problem? January is National Radon Action Month so this is a perfect time to test your child care center or home if you haven't done so already. There are inexpensive "do-it-yourself" kits available or you can work with a qualified radon tester. There are two types of test available, a short-term test and a long-term test. Both tests involve placing a radon-detecting device in the building, but this device only remains in the building for 2-90 days if it is a short-term test and over 90 days if it is a long-term test. Radon levels can vary day-to-day and season-to-season, so it may be necessary to repeat a short-term test. It is very important to conduct a test in your own building and not to rely on testing results from surrounding buildings because high levels of radon may be found in one building, but the building next door may not have a radon problem.

What do you do if you find out you do have a problem? Radon in the air is measured in "picocuries per liter of air" or "pCi/L." The average indoor level of radon is 1.3 pCi/L and with levels registering 4 pCi/L or higher, the recommendation is to fix the building. A common way to fix, or mitigate, a radon problem involves a vent pipe system and a fan. This system sucks radon from the ground below the building and vents it outside. Implementing this system doesn't require major changes to building, but it does require technical knowledge and special skills. Your state radon office can help you locate qualified or state certified radon contractors in your area. They can study the problem within your building and determine the best treatment option for the situation.

For more information on radon and testing, National Radon Action Month, or to find your state radon office, please visit the Environmental Protection Agency's radon website.