There’s no denying it—the weather in Kansas City has been out of control. One week we’re boasting 80 degree weather and the next, there’s a blizzard. But something that we may not have noted is the severe drought that the KC metro region is currently experiencing. As a matter of fact, we are about to enter month 21 of a large Midwestern drought. What does that mean for you? Radon problems.
What is radon?
Radon is a silent (and odorless) gas that can leak into homes from the natural decay of uranium present in all different types of soil. Radon contains cancer-causing alpha particles that are drawn from parched soil through drought-driven cracks in home foundations. The US Environmental Protection Agency has linked indoor radon to 20,000 lung-cancer deaths annually.
Is radon in my home?
You are breathing in radon right now. And we’ve all been breathing it in since we were born. It’s a natural process that our bodies have learned to cope with. It’s when we breathe in too much radon over a long period of time that we need to be weary of. The homes with the highest levels of radon:
- Have fractures in the foundation, which allows gases to travel through underground channels
- Leave windows open often
- Utilize attic fans
- Have high traffic in and out of the home
- Are geographically located where droughts are prevalent
- Soils and basement footings that shift
- New furnace
- New air conditioning system
- Altered plumbing
- Improved insulation
- Structural additions to a home
Kansas City radon levels
So if radon levels rise when a drought occurs, why is Kansas City experiencing such high levels? After all, there’s plenty of wet snow on the ground! As a matter of fact, despite the snow piles that have taken over the city, no handful of wet-weather events can cancel scientists’ predictions on the drought and radon levels in Kansas City.
According to the Kansas City Star, KC is one of the nation’s hottest spots for indoor radon levels above what federal authorities consider safe. Between 33% and 45% of Kansas City homes show radon levels higher than 4 picocuries per liter (the average home tests at a safe 1.3 pCi/L).
Preventing & testing radon levels
How can you prevent high levels of radon in your home? It’s actually quite simple! First and foremost, it’s important to note that you should test your home approximately every 2 years. The best time to test for radon is in the winter, when a home is sealed up and the furnaces are churning (so why not do it today?).
In addition to bi-annual testing, the Kansas and Missouri governments are taking action to fight off the chances of radon sickness. A bill introduced this year in the Kansas Legislature will make radon testing mandatory for every home sale. This bill will also allow the state to compare the reported levels to health problems diagnosed in residents. Currently, Missouri is not introducing a bill to require radon testing.
So how much is this going to cost me?
A DIY radon testing kit can be purchased for less than $10 at your local home improvement store. Once you have purchased a kit, you may need an additional $10-$30 for lab tests. If you’d like professional advice, most services cost around $100-$200 in the Kansas City area. If you decide to hire a professional, look for companies certified by the state of Kansas for radon inspection (Missouri does not have this requirement).
If you find that your home has over 4 pCi/L, it is time to shop for a mitigation piping system. These pipes, including installation, will run at about $700-$1,400. Always remember—it’s better to be safe than sorry!