Preventing a silent and odorless killer: Radon

Published: May. 10, 2011 at 2:30 AM EDT|Updated: May. 10, 2011 at 8:41 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CHESTERFIELD (WWBT)-  It is something everyone who owns a home should be concerned with: Radon. The dangers are real, but the solution is an easy one. But you can't begin to protect your family until you know what you are up against.

Radon doesn't smell, it is invisible and if it is prevalent in your home it is literally killing the people exposed to it.

John and Sherry Petersik are from Chesterfield and operate the internationally renowned "do it yourself" blog "Young House Love."  Despite the notoriety that the blog brings their home improvements, they insist that when it comes to radon, they are no different than anyone.

"Gosh, if radon is this silent, odorless killer than maybe we should test for that," Sherry Petersik recalls thinking at the time they moved into their first house.

The Petersiks have owned two houses in Chesterfield County, both featured projects on their blog. As they were painting walls and reconditioning floors they decided take a radon test and stick it in their home.

"We just wanted the box checked off, 'no radon,'" John said.

But the results weren't good.

"It said anything over a 4 is dangerous," said Sherry. "You have a 10! And I was like 'oh my gosh' we are going to die tonight!"

The Petersiks were like 1 in 3 homes in America, above the recommended level of radon. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that escapes from uranium deposits under the earth. It is a serious problem that Ryan Paris from the Virginia Department of Health believes needs to be addressed.

"The primary risk is thought to be an increase risk of lung cancer over a very long exposure period," said Paris.

And it is easy to be subjected to the gas for a long time, because you can see it or smell it.

"You can't detect it with any of your senses," Paris said.

So in order to determine if your home is at risk you have to test. The test is an initial investment of $5 to $15 at your local hardware store. The best place test for radon is in the lowest liveable point in your house.

But no matter how bad the results look, "it sounds like 'Aliens,' like 'Invasion,'" said Sherry.

The solution is not all that difficult.

On two different occasions, in both of their "Young House Loves," the Petersiks installed a radon abatement system. In was installed in a day and radon is no longer anything to worry about.

"The only damage done to the house was there is one pipe that runs through the closet," said John. "But you don't even see it."

With the radon problem behind them, a second time, the Petersiks can go back to paint and cabinets. Those are the kind of home improvements that you can see and smell, and make home ownership, well, lovely.

Radon abatement is somewhat of an investment. It can cost up to $5,000, but once you put it in you don't ever have to worry about it again.

**IMPORTANT NOTE** In the broadcast version of this story we reported that the best place to test for radon would be in a "crawl space". Ryan Paris from VDH pointed out that the best place to test is in the "lowest liveable" point in the home. A crawl space obviously doesn't meet that criteria. The best advice is to closely follow the directions on the test you plan to use.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.