Radon: the danger that lives with you
RADON sounds like a made-up word from a sci-fi movie, however, it could be the cause of serious health problems in your home. Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas that concentrates in homes and buildings. Breathing in this dangerous gas can over time cause lung cancer.
In fact, radon is the leading cause of lung cancer amongst non-smokers and is the leading environmental cause of cancer mortality in the United States. Radon causes over 21,000 deaths annually. The good news is there is a solution to this serious public health issue, a simple radon mitigation system can be installed in buildings with elevated radon levels that will reduce the concentration of the gas.
So why has this deadly gas not been mitigated in every home and building in America? It comes down to politics. For years’ radon advocates have tried to get legislators to acknowledge the health effects linked to radon exposure and to enact legislation that would prevent tens of thousands of deaths a year.
The radon industry has made some strides, in 2013 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a new policy that required any multifamily building being financed using a HUD backed loan program to be tested and if necessary mitigated to reduced radon levels. This was the first national law that made radon testing and mitigation mandatory for any building. HUD reviews this policy annually to ensure that all testing and mitigation is being performed by licensed and or certified professionals and meets industry standards.
It might seem strange that the first mandatory radon testing and mitigation policies were for multifamily buildings and not single family homeowners, but the logic behind the push for multifamily says that while single- family homeowners can choose to test and mitigate their homes, residents of multifamily buildings cannot test without their landlord’s permission and certainly cannot mitigate without the building owner’s financial commitment.
The new HUD mandate has contributed to thousands of multifamily buildings being tested and in cases where radon levels were above the EPA action level, were mitigated and residents can now breathe easy with healthier indoor air quality. Congress is currently looking at several bills that would make testing and mitigation of a single family home tax credit worthy. This would allow homeowners to receive a tax credit for installing a radon mitigation system. The bill is currently in committee.
Radon is a serious public health issue that costs lives. Prevention is key and installing a radon mitigation system in all buildings that show high levels will dramatically impact the number of new radon induced lung cancer diagnosis. The fix is easy, the cost of doing nothing is far too high.