Pre-winter home inspection could prematurely halt radon threat

Snow and freezing temperatures may not be the only sources of homeowner distress during the winter months: harmful radon gas could be seeping into homes at an accelerated pace during the coldest months of the year.

During winter, homeowners are less likely to ventilate their homes, as they keep doors and windows closed in an effort to contain heat within the home. But, this lack of air circulation could also be trapping toxic radon gas within the confines of a building.

Deep beneath the earth's surface, radon gas is emitted from the breakdown of certain minerals in rocks and soil. If a home's foundation contains any leaks, over a prolonged period of time, radon gas can compromise the home and harm its inhabitants. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

Experts suggest that homeowners in Maryland and Washington, D.C. test their homes for radon gas before the coldest temperatures of the year settle in. The EPA estimates that many counties in the Tri-State area have predicted average indoor radon levels exceeding four picocuries per liter (pCi/L), which is considered to be unsafe by the EPA. Homes with levels of at least four pCi/L of radon generally require corrective measures to address the problem.

Fortunately, once a home inspection is complete and a radon problem has been identified, homeowners can remedy the problem relatively easily by purchasing a radon mitigation system.

"When the mitigation system is installed properly and it's working properly you've pretty much taken care of your radon situation," Steve Melia, manager of the Lead and Radon Program for the Wyoming Department of Health, told local CBS affiliate KGWN.

Homeowners should contact a Washington, D.C. home inspector if they have never tested their homes for radon gas. The testing procedure is fairly simple and could put a homeowner's mind as ease.