When it comes to cancer, you probably want to do what you can to avoid it. But how do you do that when it seems like everything around you poses a cancer risk?
Here are seven important steps to removing the most pressing cancer risks from your home. They include checking for and removing: radon, nonstick-coated pots and pans, makeup and personal care products with toxic ingredients, BPA-lined cans and bottles, cleaning products and air fresheners, toxic building materials, furnishings and household cleaning supplies, as well as common pesticides and weed killers.
1. Check Your Home for Radon
Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that is formed from the natural breakdown of uranium in the earth. Though you can’t see it or smell it, radon can enter your home through cracks in your foundation, well water, building materials and other sources, where it can contaminate the air you breathe.
Because radon is radioactive, it’s also carcinogenic; radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, second only to smoking.
Any home, whether new or old, with a basement or without, well-insulated or drafty, can have a radon problem; the EPA estimates that nearly 1 out of every 15 homes has elevated levels. Radon is measured in “picocuries per liter of air,” or “pCi/L.” Outdoor air generally has radon levels of about 0.4 pCi/L, whereas the average radon level indoors is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L. While the U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal stating that indoor radon levels should be no higher than outdoor levels, the EPA recommends taking action only if your home’s levels exceed 4 pCi/L.
This does not necessarily mean that 4 pCi/L is “safe,” however, as there really is NO safe level for radiation. Even the EPA admits that lower levels can still pose a health risk, and you may want to take precautions to further reduce the amount of radon in your indoor space even if it’s at or below 4 pCi/L.
Radon Testing and Remediation
Fortunately, testing your home for radon is simple, and if levels are elevated there are ways to reduce them to protect your health. There are a number of resources for test kits:
- If you’d like a certified technician to measure the radon levels in your home or other indoor environment, you can contact the American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists.1 Testing costs from $100 to $300.
- You can also obtain information on certified technicians and do-it-yourself testing from the EPA.2 State and regional information can be found there.
- The National Radon Program Services at Kansas State University offers discounted test kits available to purchase online.3
- Other do-it-yourself test kits for radon run between $20 and $30 and can be purchased online and at your local hardware store.
If your home has elevated radon levels, it’s important to find a qualified radon service professional to fix your home immediately. Some U.S. states maintain lists of contractors that have met certain qualifications for radon mitigation; your state radon coordinator will have this information.4 There are also two privately run national radon programs that can help you find a qualified radon service professional:
- The National Environmental Health Association (NEHA)5
- The National Radon Safety Board (NRSB)6
Finally, Kansas State University maintains national radon hotlines:
- National Radon Hotline: Purchase radon test kits by phone.
- National Radon Helpline: Get live help for your radon questions.
- National Radon Fix-It Line: For general information on fixing or reducing the radon level in your home.
The cost of radon reduction measures depends on the size and design of your home and the specific methods needed. Costs range from $800 to $2,500, with an average cost of $1,200. Radon reduction systems may be able to reduce your home’s radon levels by 99 percent. There are a variety of ways to reduce radon levels in your home, including:
- Sealing cracks in floors and walls
- Increasing ventilation through sub-slab depressurization with pipes and fans
- Removing granite countertops if they are emitting high levels of radon
- Replacing ionization smoke detectors with the photoelectric type
Author: Dr. Mercola