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Radon and Indoor Air Quality

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas released from rock, soil and water. It can build up to dangerous levels inside any home. Since radon gas is odorless and invisible, the only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test for it. All homes should be tested because radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among people who do not smoke and the second leading cause of lung cancer among people who smoke.
The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test for it, and fortunately for New Mexicans, there are easy options for doing this.

Reduced-cost, short-term radon test kits are available to New Mexico residents through the state Environment Department's Indoor Radon Outreach Program which offers test kits from Alpha Energy Laboratories. Visit https://www.doctorhomeair.com/# and click on State Discounts. Select the New Mexico flag symbol.

Low cost short-term as well as long-term test kits are available from many radon specialty vendors, hardware stores and DIY (Do-It Yourself) stores. Often the cost of the kits includes the lab analysis.

You can also call this EPA-supported hotline to purchase radon test kits by phone: 1-800-SOSRADON (1-800-767-7236) or visit http://www.sosradon.org
On average, most people spend as much as 90 percent of their time indoors, making indoor exposure to radon a health concern. Typically, indoor radon gets inside a house or building from the soil or rock beneath it. Radon rises through the soil and gets trapped under the building. The trapped gases build up pressure under the building which makes radon gas seep up through floors and walls. Once inside, the radon can become concentrated in the enclosed space making it important to test for radon and mitigate if needed. It is also why new buildings should be built with radon-resistant features.

A mitigation system is any system or steps designed to reduce radon concentrations in the indoor air. The EPA recommends that you act to reduce your home's indoor radon levels if your radon test result is 4 pCi/L or higher. The primary benefit is reducing the risk of developing lung cancer.

There are several methods that a contractor can use to lower radon levels in your home. Some techniques prevent radon from entering your home while others reduce radon levels after it has entered. The EPA generally recommends methods that prevent the entry of radon.

In many cases, simple systems using underground pipes and an exhaust fan may be used to reduce radon levels. Standard radon reduction systems maintain low levels if the fan is operating. Such systems are called "sub-slab depressurization," and do not require major changes to your home. Similar systems can also be installed in houses with crawl spaces.

In addition to installing a mitigation system, sealing cracks and other openings in the floors and walls is a basic part of most approaches to radon reduction. Sealing limits the flow of radon into your home. (The EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone; it recommends it in combination with a mitigation system).

To learn more about mitigation options, visit:
New homes can be built with radon-resistant features. Building new homes with simple and cost-effective -resistant features can reduce radon entry. Using common materials and straightforward techniques, builders can construct new homes that are resistant to radon entry often for less than $500.

Common radon-resistant features include: gas permeable layer, such as a 4-inch layer of clean gravel; plastic sheeting placed on top of the gas permeable layer and under the slab or over the crawlspace floor; sealing and caulking; and a vent pipe.

To learn more about radon-resistant features visit:
Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among people who do not smoke. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States for people who do smoke because smoking coupled with radon exposure in a home increases risk of lung cancer, per the Surgeon General.

The best ways to reduce your risk for radon-associated lung cancer is to:
  • test your home for radon,
  • install a mitigation system if the home has signs of radon exposure,
  • ban smoking from inside your home, and;
  • get support for quitting smoking altogether.

If you want to reduce your risk, the first step is to test your home for radon. Reduced-cost, short-term radon test kits are available to New Mexico residents through the state Environment Department's Indoor Radon Outreach Program by visiting https://www.doctorhomeair.com/#. Click on State Discounts. Select the New Mexico flag symbol.

If your test shows evidence of high levels of radon gas in your home, the Environment Department will talk to you about ways you can reduce levels of radon gas in your home and how you can cut your exposure to this gas. Order a low-cost kit and call 505 476-8608 to learn more.
To further reduce your risk of lung cancer, you should make your home smoke-free. Keeping a smoke-free home can help improve your health and the health of children.

You can begin by asking anyone who smokes to not use tobacco products inside the house or any indoor space. Ask that if they smoke, they do it outdoors and away from windows and doorways.

Next, if your household has people who smoke, encourage them to access free cessation services offered by the New Mexico Department of Health. They can begin by calling the statewide toll free number 1-800-QUIT NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visiting http://www.nmtupac.com. Typically, these services include:
  • Unlimited sessions with a Quit Coach
  • Quit Plan
  • Educational materials
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy (gum, patch or lozenges), as appropriate
  • Specialized services for pregnant women, including postpartum calls
  • Specialized services for people ages 13-17
  • Internet-based activities integrated with phone support
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Content updated: Tue, 12 Sep 2017 17:14:55 MDT