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National Radon Action Month: what you should know

What is radon? Here’s why testing your home can guard your family’s long-term health
Posted at 3:06 PM, Jan 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-03 17:07:58-05

GREAT FALLS — The Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is offering free radon test kits for the month of January to test radon levels in Montanans' homes, as part of National Radon Action Month.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless and inert gas that can build up in homes over time. Exposure to elevated radon levels can increase the risk of lung cancer. Testing is the only way to know whether there is a radon problem in a home, according to the DEQ.

The winter months are the best time to test radon levels, as there is usually less ventilation from doors and windows during the winter, causing the radon levels to accumulate.

DEQ recommends testing the lowest livable level of your home every two to five years, or after making structural changes to your home or occupying a previously unused lower level.

“Montana's geology makes it prone to elevated radon levels. Testing your home and mitigating, if necessary, is the best method to protect yourself from long-term exposure, " said DEQ Energy Bureau Chief Ben Brouwer in a news release.

Radon is caused by the breakdown, or decay, of uranium in soil, rock and water. Radon gas can enter homes through miniscule cracks in the foundation or small spaces around utility pipes and can accumulate unless properly mitigated.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that homes throughout Montana have a higher potential for elevated levels due to the geology and soil in the region.

Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non‐smokers and roughly 21,000 people die every year from radon caused lung cancer in the United States according to several studies by the EPA.

Radon is measured in picocuries (pCi) per liter of air. If you find radon levels above the action level of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), mitigation is recommended.

The EPA estimates the average radon level in outside ambient air is about 0.4 pCi/L, making it difficult to lower radon levels to zero.

In Montana, approximately half of the homes tested for radon have levels at or above the 4.0 pCi/L action level according to DEQ data.

When elevated radon levels are found in a home, they can be reduced through mitigation measures.

The average cost for a contractor to lower radon levels in a home is around $1,200, although this can range from $500 to about $2,500. Your costs may vary, depending on the specifics of your home and which radon reduction methods are needed.

A recent study by DEQ found that nearly half of newly constructed Montana homes were built with radon resistant features.

To learn more about radon in Montana, or to order a free test kit, click here to visit the DEQ website.

If mitigation is needed, DEQ offers a list of mitigation professionals who may be certified by the National Radon Proficiency Program or the National Radon Safety board.