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About the House: How Radon Finds its Way into Our Homes

Rob Kinsey has been a licensed builder for 25 years and is a home inspector with more than 15 years of experience.

Sturgis, Mich. — Last week’s column addressed the issue of radon testing. It pointed out that radon is considered to be the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. What it didn’t give was much information about radon itself.

Radon is a silent killer. It relies on stealth, and apathy. By its nature, it is silent. And, as I noted last week, it is immune to detection by our five senses. It’s invisible, patient and relies on us doing nothing. Essentially it uses the adage, out of sight, out of mind.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas. It comes from the breakdown of uranium deep within the ground. Please do not ask me how a rock can break down into other things and along the line become a deadly gas. That science is advanced well beyond my education. But then again so is chemistry and flying through space — yet I believe in them.

Radon is radioactive. It enters our homes through the soil. Southwest Michigan is noted for its high concentrations of radon gas. As it rises up from deep down it seeps through any opening in the soil, no matter how small, to get to the air around us. Problems arise when our homes get in the way of this natural migration.

Cracks and openings in the floors of our basements and crawlspaces allow it to enter our dwellings. Being a bit heavier than air, it likes to settle into the lowest areas. Opening windows and running fans can actually increase radon levels, too. (Which seems strange, indeed.)

The amounts of the exposure combined with the length of time exposed are the major risk factors. A little exposure for a long time might be the same as a lot of exposure for a short time. Also, there are many personal health risk factors as well that influence who gets sick and who doesn’t. But, like stated last week: Proper testing is the only way to know of radon’s presence.

We must be proactive to protect our families. Testing is simple and inexpensive. A mitigation system, if needed, will draw the radon out of the soil beneath a home and expel it to the atmosphere, to help keep your family protected from radon’s harmful affects About the House.

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