Radon gas causes more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths ever year in North America, but the risk is especially great in Central Wisconsin.
Homes in the area, especially in Marathon County, have tested at more than 100 times the Environmental Protection Agency's recommended exposure levels.
"I have a family member who is a two-time cancer survivor and I am particularly sensitive to carcinogens," said Inspect it Right Home Inspector Mike Carson from Wausau. "I tested my home, the results came back elevated, and that's when I decided I needed it mitigated."
For about $8 you can asses your risk with a radon detection kit from a health department or hardware store. Certified inspectors like Carson also have high-tech equipment that can measure levels a little more quickly and accurately.
"The E.P.A. recommends that houses with 4 pCi/L or higher get fixed," said Carson. "I've seen radon levels everywhere from below 4 pCi/L all the way up into 500-800 pCi/L."
Radon exposure is especially high in the winter. The gas seeps into homes from the ground, commonly from basements. In the winter doors and windows are often closed and heating systems create low pressure indoors. This pulls the gas into the home and contains it.
But even if radon levels in your home are high, the remedy is highly effective. Steve Garbacz, owner of Abatron Engineering in Wausau, has installed nearly 2,000 remediation fans in the area.
"What we install are sub-slab depressurization systems which actually create a negative pressure underneath the basement floor allowing the soil gasses a new path of least resistance and exhaust it to the outside," said Garbacz.
He says installing a system simply involves drilling a hole into the floor and fitting a pipe connected to a fan which redirects soil gasses outdoors, away from the home.
Garbacz says remediation systems usually cost about $900. After the 3 hour installation he guarantees reduced radon and a return to safe levels under 4 pCi/L.
Regardless of whether homeowners choose a professional inspection or a home testing kit, experts say in central Wisconsin its important to know your exposure.
"You can't say a neighbor tested and they were low because each house is different from design as well as the fill material brought into the house," said Garbacz.
Apartment dwellers may also be at risk. According to Garbacz, about half of the gas can pass between floors.
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