I have a confession to make. It’s 5pm and I’m still in my pajamas.
Last night’s pajamas.
I haven’t showered or left the house all day either. I know! I have an explanation though, I swear. You see it all started with a gift. A Christmas gift.
Last Christmas my sister-in-law had an extra package sitting next to the tree for Ben and me. We eagerly tore through the wrapping paper and came up with…a radon test.
A radon test? Who? Wha? HUH?
Ok so I know what radon is, from I don’t know – high school chemistry? – but how/why did it apply to Ben and me?
Iowa has the highest concentration of Radon (a colorless, tasteless, odorless gas that occurs naturally in the earth) in the United States, and exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US, after smoking.
She went on to explain that the land in the Midwest, especially Iowa, is very high in uranium, which breaks down to radium, which then breaks down to form radon. As radon decays, the radioactive byproducts (vapors) rise from the ground and are inhaled – which is what causes lung cancer!
She had recently run a test in her basement, where radon levels are usually the highest, and found levels that were three times the limit deemed safe by the EPA, and she wanted us to check ours too.
The test kit sat on my kitchen counter for weeks. It takes one minute to set up, you mail it in for FREE, and results are emailed to you within days. Still, I let it sit there.
“We’re fine…” I tried to convince myself “I’m SURE of it. I don’t need to test for this silly gas!”
Really, I was just scared.
What if the levels WEREN’T safe? The basement is Ben’s man cave! He spends so much time down there! What if he’s been inhaling this deadly gas while watching sports, hanging out with his buddies and brewing beer (his favorite hobby) for the past three years we’ve lived here?!
I had to know for sure, so I finally set the dang thing up, mailed it in and hoped for the best…
I cried when the results came back. 2.5 times the safe limit. TWO POINT FIVE TIMES! MY POOR HUSBAND! We immediately shut the door to the basement and did not return (except to do laundry) until we had a solution – the installation of a mitigation system.
A mitigation system is basically a pipe with a fan on the end of it that sucks the air, and thus the radon, from the sump pump in your basement and funnels it up and out through your roof, where it continues to rise into the atmosphere.
I’m still in my PJs because it took ALL day for the system to be installed, plus I didn’t feel like dressing up for the mitigation man…
Bill told me that nearly 70% of the homes in Iowa have non-safe limits of radon, but the problem is kept very hush-hush by the government and real estate industry…that makes me sad!
Right now in Iowa, a radon test and/or disclosure of unsafe radon levels is not mandatory in order to sell a house, which is why Ben and I had no idea about it when we bought our place. If it wasn’t for my sister-in-law – we’d still be in the basement breathing in poisonous gas every night. I am so thankful for her gift!
If you are building a home, make sure it is piped for a mitigation system, or if you are buying one – make sure that it is tested and have the installation of a system be part of your negotiations if needed. Each house is a special case too – my home has unGodly high levels of radon, but my neighbor’s might not. Radon’s weird that way.
After much research, we learned that young children and the elderly are more susceptible to getting ill from radon, while healthy men Ben’s age are less so and he’ll most likely be just fine. I am SO glad to know that he will be breathing in clean air from now on, and he is SO glad to have his man cave back!!! He’s literally “WAHOOOOOOO”‘ing!
If you live in Iowa, the Midwest – or really anywhere in the US – and own a home, I encourage you to get a radon test kit. Even if you don’t spend a lot of time in your basement where radon mostly hangs out, at least you’ll know. Like I said, it takes one minute to put the kit together, you send it in to be tested in a pre-paid envelope and the results are emailed to you in a matter of days. Wouldn’t you feel better if you just knew, either way?
ARE YOU OVER THE CHEMISTRY LESSON!?
Ok, me too. :)
While Bill worked away, I got a little carried away with a fresh pineapple. It’s true… First up, Cottage Cheese + Fresh Pineapple for lunch.
This is my #1, all-time favorite way to eat cottage cheese – it’s what I grew up eating!
Cold, creamy cottage cheese and fresh, juicy pineapple. Match made in Heaven.Well, it’s Friday and I feel like SUCH a lump for sitting here all day. Tomorrow will be an early start to get in a good workout, run some errands, then get ready for a super-fun, local event my parents, Ben and I are attending in the afternoon. It involves beer AND bread.
I gave my jeans the afternoon off.
join the conversation
Lindsey J 06.16.2015
Hi Kristin! We’re in the process of selling our home and radon mitigation has been recommended. I tried clicking on the link for Bill, but it seems the site no longer exists. Could you provide his contact information? Thanks!
Gail Orcutt 03.09.2011
Great post. The first thing I did was print out the recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Pancakes!
I read all of your readers’ comments. One misconception seems to be that houses with basements are the only ones in danger of high radon levels. ANY building, whether on slab, crawlspace, or basement can have an unsafe level of radon. Test kits can be found at most any hardware store.
I met your sister-in-law when I told my radon story at an American Lung Association meeting. Last spring, the day before my 57th birthday, I was told that I had lung cancer. As I have never smoked a day in my life, this came as a huge shock to my husband and me. My left lung was totally removed and I went through four rounds of very tough chemo. I’m gradually reclaiming my life. Since I was spared with such an early detection, I have made it my mission to get the word out as much as I can. I have joined the Iowa Radon Coalition in hopes of getting some state-wide legislation to insure the safety of all Iowans.
Radon is a real killer; not a scam. More people in Iowa died from radon-induced lung cancer last year than on Iowa highways! There are other places in the US that have nearly as high an incidence of radon as Iowa. Readers can check http://www.epg.gov/radon and click on the maps link.
Your blog message is wonderful! I hope that your readers pass the message on to their friends and family. (I also fed Bill; a chicken sandwich, I think. He has a heart of gold.) I’m glad you didn’t let fear keep you from testing, and I’m happy that you have mitigated your home. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Maybe you’ll “pay it forward” and give also someone you love a test kit.
Sorry, but this is just another justification for why “I hate basements.” Growing up in gulf-coast Texas and then Southern California, I could never understand why anyone would want to live UNDERGROUND. On purpose. :) Yes, I see them in cute episodes of Househunters on HGTV, but I do NOT want to be in a dark room with short ceilings and clerestory windows. Adding this whole radon gas scare just builds the con list for basements. I would much rather have a 2 or 3 story ABOVE ground house. Than a single story with a basement. Glad you got it fixed though!
Ooh,the pancakes and pineapple combo looks absolutely divine,and is making my mouth water.
I’m glad you guys got the problem fixed,it is really lucky your sis-in-law thought of giving you guys this as a gift.
The first apartment I lived in, sat at the ‘bottom’ of our town (the town kind of goes downhill toward a river).And 2 years ago,after a LOT of rain during the night,I woke up with my entire little apartment flooded with 2 ft of water.It was horrible,and I obviously had to move out in a haste,as there was a lot of damage from the water.My poor cats weren’t very happy about the water either.
Ordered my kit today!
Alicia @culinarybliss 03.07.2011
We had ours tested before we bought the house (we’re in IC) and were able to get the mitigation system paid for by the seller! The good news is the mitigation systems are totally effective.
That is terrible that you had that much radon; but so glad you got it taken care of! Iowagirl sick with lung cancer? Omg I would cry my eyes out!
I live in an apt. so it’s not my responsibility to worry about this kind of thing. Do you know if apt.’s get radon too?
Thanks for the chemistry lesson and the mouthwatering pics!
Iowa Girl Eats 03.06.2011
I’m sure apartments have the same risk of high levels as houses, but I wouldn’t think you’d need to worry about it unless you lived in a garden level apt!
Every home with a basement built before 1979 has radon in it. Radon was used to keep basements insulated and warm in cold months. Getting your basement tested is a good idea. I think I’m going to get mine done.
Sorry, wrong gas. Still good idea. LOL.
we tested our house a couple of years ago and it came in just under the safe level. we also put the test like right by our sump pit and our basement is unfinished and we rarely go down there, so we decided not to have a system installed. when i was growing up, i lived in a hilly area (southwestern iowa) and i had never even heard of a sump pump! so i think we didnt hear about it as much (though i know it can still be an issue). i think any realtor who doesnt recommend that you have one in iowa before buying a house is unethical!
Good information. I’ll be doing this ASAP, especially as I get ready to buy my first home.