News & Events

The Invisible Threat To Your Health & Home

06/26/14 at 03:43 PM by Jillian Hanes

Trivia question: What is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, and claims more lives per year than drunk driving incidents? 

Answer: Radon, an odorless and tasteless radioactive gas that can get trapped within your home

One of the key components of NeighborWorks’® Healthy and Sustainable Homes Principles that Neighborhood Housing Services strives to follow within our homes is having healthy indoor air environments. This means preventing or treating harmful contaminants that irritate or cause harm to the lung s, skin, etc.  Radon, a serious health hazard that causes 21,000 deaths a year, can be prevented or reduced to normal levels in a home without too much effort or expense.

Where It Comes From

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium that is found in nearly all soils.  It stealthily moves up from the ground, and into homes through the following points of entry:

  • Cracks in solid floors
  • Construction joints
  • Cracks in walls
  • Gaps in suspended floors
  • Gaps around service pipes
  • Cavities inside walls
  • The water supply

The gas moves about the house and begins to build up – often to dangerously high levels if it’s not detected and removed.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), any home may have a radon problem, and they estimate that nearly 1 out of every 15 has an elevated level of this radioactive gas.  There are regions in the United States that have higher radon levels than others, but each home is different and should be tested. 

Idaho has high and moderate levels of indoor radon.  Ada County statistics show that 24% of the buildings have high levels of the toxic gas and 30% contain moderate levels.

How To Get Your Home Tested

There are two main ways to get your home tested: purchase a “do-it-yourself” radon test kit and send it to a lab after testing your home, or hire a radon measurement professional to do the job for you. 

While the cost of “doing-it-yourself” is less expensive, there is a benefit to having a qualified tester do it if you are planning to move in the near future.  More and more, homebuyers are asking about radon levels before they buy, and they often want tests made by someone who is not involved in the home sale.  Producing test papers to potential homebuyers can build your credibility.

The EPA recommends retesting your home every two years.

How to Prevent or Fix the Problem

New homes can be built with radon-resistant features that prevent the gas from entering the home.  This is a cheaper option than having to install a radon mitigation system after the home has been built.

If your home does not have one of these features and tests positive for high levels of radon, there are several methods to reduce it.  However, the most popular approach is the soil suction radon reduction system – requiring few major changes to the home.

Protect Your Health and Home

Radon, second only to tobacco smoke in the leading causes of lung cancer, is a serious radioactive gas that invades homes throughout the country – undetectable by our physical senses.  Testing your home for radon is a good investment – protecting your family’s health and maintaining your home’s marketability. 

For more details on radon, visit the EPA website.

For more information on NeighborWorks’® Healthy and Sustainable Homes Principles that Neighborhood Housing Services is working toward incorporating into our programs and services, contact either of the following NHS staff members:

  • New Construction Project Manager, Grey Titmus at 258-6233 or
  • Acquisition and Rehabilitation of Single Family Homes Asset Manager, Michael Shepard at 258-6219 or


Resources:   Figure 1 EPA's Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes

                      Figure 2 EPA Map of Radon Zones

                      Figure 3 Radon Mitigation System

Article composed by: Marie Conway and Jillian Hanes

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