PORTLAND -- As you seal up your home against the cold you may also be trapping a potentially dangerous gas inside.
Radon gas is the result of decaying uranium in the soil. You can’t see it or smell it, and without tests, you have no idea it is present. It is also the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.
“In Oregon it’s estimated to cause about 250 lung cancer deaths every year,” said Don Francis, general manager of EcoTech. His company not only tests for radon, it also installs systems that vent the gas out of homes or buildings.
Francis said this time of year people are at highest risk because they weatherize their homes. They seal up cracks or leaks to keep the warm air inside. But by doing this, they may be unknowingly impacting radon levels as well.
“As people do weatherization work, tightening up their homes, they may in fact be raising the radon levels... so we’re saving money, saving the environment and potentially killing ourselves,” said Francis.
One study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy found that reducing air leakage in a home by just 20 percent resulted in a 40-percent increase in indoor radon concentration.
Francis said installing a radon mitigation system can help vent the dangerous gas out of homes. Last summer, EcoTech installed such a system in the Governor's mansion after it tested slightly above safe levels.
Francis said the most important thing a homeowner can do is to test their home. Simple do-it-yourself test kits are available at most hardware stores.