COVID-19 has millions of Americans self-quarantining at home. That will help slow the spread of this highly-contagious virus, which is vitally important. I’ve created a free guide to making your home safer, more comfortable, better able to handle home schooling and teleworking and offering some respite from stress and anxiety. You can download it here.

One of the points it makes is that there is a hidden danger lurking in many living spaces, potentially threatening your health and – in the long-term – your life: “One out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels,” the second leading cause of lung cancer deaths in the country, reports the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk,” the agency advises. Both the EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. With more than 21,000 radon-related deaths per year in the United States, this is recommendation worth considering.

High Risk Spaces

Lower floors are especially susceptible, the National Cancer Institute warns. If your home has a basement play area, guest room, laundry space or home theater, it might also have dangerous radon levels. The research center points out, “Basements and first floors typically have the highest radon levels because of their closeness to the ground.” (Radon, often present in soil, typically enters homes through wall and foundation cracks.)

Homes that were built for energy efficiency can also put you at greater risk. “Radon levels can be higher in homes that are well insulated [and] tightly sealed,” NCI shares. According to the EPA, indoor radon levels are triple those found outside – and we spend 90 percent of our time in indoor environments – probably more this season.

If your basement is used as a living space, it should be tested for radon.
(Photo Courtesy: New Bathroom Idea Book / Gold – Author / Rugg – Photographer / Taunton Press (c) 2017)

What You Can Do

The EPA recommends correcting your home’s radon issue at a level of 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air), but even 2 pCi/L is considered unsafe, the agency says. Your state’s radon office may provide lists of verified testing service providers on its website. If not, you can check on your own. The EPA lists two certifying organizations on its radon site.

You can also buy a radon detection device that can alert you to this silent killer in your home; they are sold online and through home centers. Installing one in your basement if it’s used as a living or chore space, is ideal, but having one on the first and second floor is also helpful. Many of these detectors will connect to your phone and smart home system.

A radon detector will help alert you to this silent danger
(Photo Courtesy of Airthings – GreenRoom / Wellness by Design – Simon & Schuster/Tiller Press, (c) 2020)

The Granite Fallacy

A decade ago, there was extensive press about the dangers of radon in granite countertops, largely overblown, it now appears. “It is extremely unlikely that radiation from granite countertops would increase annual radiation doses above normal, natural background levels,” the EPA reports, noting, “Radon originating from the soil beneath homes is a more common problem and a far larger public health risk.”

Granite countertops and ledges are less of a concern than previously believed
(Photo: Jamie Gold Kitchen, Bath and Wellness Design)

Recommendation

The EPA recommends that all homes get tested for radon, regardless of whether it has granite surfaces or a basement. With many more Americans staying home full-time, ensuring that your home is a safe environment takes on even more importance now.

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(Photo Courtesy: Kohler Co / Wellness by Design, Simon & Schuster, Tiller Press (c) 2020)