October 20, 2010 - It is known as an invisible killer. It can't be seen. It doesn't have a smell.
|Dean Farner checks the water supply pipe to 5 S. Main Street, Clarkston. Photo by Wendi Reardon (click for larger version)|
It's radon, a radioactive gas from natural decay of uranim found in nearly all soils.
Dean Farner of Davisburg said October, Radon Awareness Month, is a perfect opportunity to check homes and businesses.
"Everybody is starting to close their homes," said Farner. "We build homes now and they are super-insulated. The homes end up with a lot of air that just stays inside and that is what makes it so dangerous."
Radon rises from the soil and can get into any home or business through a variety of ways – cracks in the floor or walls, construction joints, gaps in suspended floors or around pipes, cavitities inside walls, floor drains, and water supply.
Anytime a hole is created in the basement or a crack develops, it opens another area for radon to get into the home or business.
"We look at all of the possibilities when we inspect to make sure they are sealed up," said Farner.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates thousands of deaths a year is caused by radon.
"It is the second leading cause of lung cancer," said Farner. "It has no warning signs. It is one of those things, the person never smoked, he ran, he ate right and then has lung cancer. They check and look and there is a high level of radon.
"One in eight homes in the state of Michigan has radon," Farner added. "Oakland County is in Zone 2, which is the second highest zone for radon levels. The percentage of homes tested in this area will be higher than they will be in Zone 3."
Farner recommends three different tests homeowners can do to find out if they have radon and find out the radon level: short-term, long-term and continuous.
The short-term test is 48-72 hours and the EPA recommends the house to be closed up to 12 hours before the test and minimum opening of windows.
A test kit can be purchased from the hardware store for $10-12 and the testing results are $45.
"It is a charcoal-based test," said Farner. He added homeowners should do follow up tests throughout the year because at different points of the year the results will be different.
The long-term tests take more than 90 days and will give a reading of the home's year-round average radon level.
The continuous test is a monitor plugged into an outlet.
"It works just like a carbon dioxide detector," said Farner. "If you have a spike in radon it will go off."
The amount of radon in the air is measured in pCi/L, picocuries per liter of air, and is measure to one-trillionth of a liter.
According to the EPA, the average indoor radon level is 1.3 pCi/L and 0.4 pCi/L is found in the ourside air. EPA says if the home results are 4.0 pCi/L to test again in the future. If it is above 4.0 pCi/L, the EPA recommends a vent fan, added to the existing system.
Farner said now is the perfect opportunity to check, either having a older or newer home.
"The more time you spend in the area, your level is going to go up," he added. "The important thing is to have it tested and know what your level is."
"It is just something us you have to continue to maintain on your property and check those kind of things," Farner said, adding it's like going to the doctor every year for a check-up.
"Ventilation is the key," he added. "Continually keep in mind if you have radon, monitor it."
For more information, visit www.epa.gov or call Farner at 248-860-3624 or visit him at www.TheMichiganHomeInspector.com.
Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.