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Pfeifer: Protect your family from risks of radon

By now, we all are aware of the dangers of smoking, especially its direct link to lung cancer.

In fact some of us, me included, were lulled into a false sense that only smokers develop the dreadful disease. So imagine my surprise when I was enlightened by a friend of mine, a respected doctor, who informed me that the No. 2 cause of lung cancer in the U.S. is radon.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s website — www.epa.gov, radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas released in rock, soil and water for the decay of uranium. Like carbon monoxide, it is odorless, you cannot see it or taste it, and it might be in your home.

So what can you do? Let’s start with this — don’t panic. Radon is detectable, measurable and removable. The first step is purchasing a radon-detection kit. Each kit comes with explicit and easy-to-follow instructions to which you must adhere. After completing the test, simply mail the kit to the lab identified in the instructions. The lab results are returned swiftly, and they inform you of the measured level of radon in the tested area. Also included are the EPA standards for safety.

If your home’s radon level is below the action or danger level, be happy but vigilant. Testing again in a year or so is not a bad idea. This type of monitoring is a common-sense approach to protecting yourself against an otherwise undetectable threat.

If, however, the level of radon in your home requires mitigation, go to work immediately. Find a qualified contractor who specializes in radon mitigation and carefully examine his reputation. Ask for references, and educate yourself on his prescription.

For those who are considering the purchase of a newly constructed home or are building a new house, feel free to inquire about the radon-resistance features it has or will have. Radon infiltration has been a recognized problem for some time now, so all new homes should be constructed in a manner that will reduce or eliminate its presence.

Whatever you do, I suggest not ignoring radon and its potential health risks. For too long, radon worries were dismissed. But just like the knowledge that smoking is dangerous, the information we now have about radon is clear and abundant. It is just one of those scary in-home hazards. It is, however, fixable, even preventable.

We do-it-yourselfers might be at the front line in the battle against the No. 2 cause of lung cancer in the U.S. simply by being proactive and testing our homes.

Ed Pfeifer is the owner of Pfeifer Hardware Inc., 300 Marshall Way, Mars and a freelance columnist for Trib Total Media. If you have questions, call the store at 724-625-9090.


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