There’s a one in three chance that radon levels are dangerously high in any Hoosier home, and there’s no way to know without testing.
“The only way you know is to test,” Kallie Sinkus, senior manager of the American Lung Association’s environmental health team, said. “You can’t see it. You can’t smell it. Long term, it can give you lung cancer. It’s a decaying gas.”
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, causing more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths annually, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Only cancer causes more lung cancer deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And pairing radon gas with cigarette smoking exponentially increases the threat of lung cancer.
Radon is produced by the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and is in the air. It enters homes through cracks and crevices and becomes trapped.
“It’s like a vacuum pressure,” Sinkus said. “The pressure differential pulls the gas up through the ground.”
Most people don’t think uranium rock is under their home, Sinkus said. But Indiana falls into the EPA’s Zone 1, which has the highest threat for dangerous levels of radon in homes and commercial buildings.
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter, PL, and Zone 1 carries the highest potential for buildings to test at 4-10 PL.
Hoosier homes have a one in three chance of 4 PL or greater, which is the level at which authorities suggest homeowners get a mitigation system, Sinkus said, adding that every level carries some risk.
At 4, some people don’t think they need to mitigate, she said, adding, “It’s up to you what you’re comfortable with”
Mitigation systems should be installed only by licensed professionals and typically range in price from about $800 to $1,200, Sinkus said.
Prospective home buyers may make a radon test part of the inspection process, but Hoosier home sellers are not required to disclose radon levels, nor obligated to provide an allowance for them, Sinkus said.
She encourages homeowners who need mitigation systems to get them and doesn’t consider a radon mitigation system as a red flag for a prospective buyer.
“Ultimately, it’s a selling point,” she said. “Even though there’s radon, it’s being monitored and lowered, which is better than not knowing and maybe living in a home that has a level of 10 PL.”
The Indiana Department of Health guides contractors in becoming licensed to install radon mitigation systems and provides homeowners with a list of licensed contractors online at www.in.gov/isdh/24346.htm.
The IDH also provides free test kits through county health departments, and they can be ordered in Boone County by calling 765-483-4458.
Hardware stores, including Gillman Home Center in Lebanon and Akard True Value in Zionsville, sell home radon testing kits.
The Indiana Radon Hotline provides tests that include lab processing for $15 at lung.org/radon. The price includes postage and laboratory analysis. Hotline operators can discuss test results with homeowners, help them understand their options and provide a list of licensed providers. Their advice is free of charge.
To learn more about radon, read the EPA’s “Citizen’s Guide to Radon” at https://www.epa.gov/radon/citizens-guide-radon-guide-protecting-yourself-and-your-family-radon.