One in 15 homes in the United States has a silent killer lurking in the shadows. It is there when the homeowners return from work, cook dinner and while spending time with loved ones. This silent killer is invisible, odorless, tasteless — and completely preventable — yet it kills more than 20,000 Americans a year.

We spoke with Arizona Foundation Solutions, a Rosie-Certified Partner, about the dangers of radon. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, radon is the leading cause of cancer among nonsmokers in the U.S., killing over 20,000 Americans annually.

The U.S. Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

Arizona Foundation Solutions explains that radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon can be found all over the U.S. It can get into any type of building — homes, offices, and schools — and result in a high indoor radon level.

Radon can enter a home through cracks in the foundation floor and walls, through basement floor drains, and through sump openings. Homes with dirt crawl spaces have increased radon exposure levels. However, even houses with a seemingly tight concrete foundation can have high radon levels.

We cannot smell, taste, see, touch, or hear radon. Thus, it easily goes unnoticed. When this happens, everyone in the home becomes susceptible to contracting lung cancer. There are also very limited lung cancer symptoms.

Symptoms may include:

• Persistent cough

• Hoarseness

• Wheezing

• Shortness of breath

• Coughing up blood

• Chest pain

• Frequent infections like bronchitis and pneumonia

• Loss of appetite

• Weight loss

• Fatigue

Radon is measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). A picocurie is one-trillionth of a curie (which is the amount of radioactivity emitted by one gram of radium).

The Environmental Protection Agency has established mitigation guidelines that recommend mitigation at levels above 4 pCi/L while the World Health Organization has established remediation guidelines at 2 pCi/L.

Radon levels of 4 pCi/L is equal to smoking 8 cigarettes a day. The U.S. Surgeon General has recommended that every home in the United States be tested for radon.

Radon FAQs

Q: Is radon REALLY a problem?

A: Yes. The Center for Disease Control, the American Lung Association and the Environmental Protection Agency all agree that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths each year.

Q: My house is new/old. Do I really need to test?

A: Yes. Old or new, the house itself may be trapping radon gas within its walls and exposing those residing inside to health hazards.

Q: I do not have a basement or crawlspace. Do I need to be concerned about radon?

A: Yes; while home design (basement, crawl spaces, etc.) can have an impact on radon levels, radon has been found in homes of all types.

Q: At what level should we remediate?

A: The Environmental Protection Agency has established mitigation guidelines that recommend mitigation at levels above 4 pCi/L.

Test the radon levels in your home and mitigate the problem. The well-being of you and your family may depend on it.

For more do-it-yourself tips, go to rosieonthehouse.com. An Arizona home building and remodeling industry expert since 1988, Rosie Romero is the host of the syndicated Saturday morning Rosie on the House radio program, heard locally from 8 to 11 a.m. on KNST-AM (790) in Tucson and from 7 to 10 a.m. on KGVY-AM (1080) and -FM (100.7) in Green Valley. Call 888-767-4348.

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