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After smoking, radon is the top cause of lung cancer in this country--it's responsible for about 21,000 deaths a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Overexposure is symptom free, and once you're exposed, there's no treatment. Detecting radon and fixing the problem are far easier and less expensive than dealing with lead.
Radon is measured in pico Curies per liter (pCi/L); 1.3 is considered the national average indoor level. Although 4 pCi/L is the recommended EPA action level, the agency also suggests that you consider remediation at a level between 2 and 4 pCi/L.
We tested seven short-term (2- to 7-day) radon kits, three long-term (90-day) kits, and a digital-readout meter using experts at two labs. Here's what we found.
Long-term radon kits are more accurate. The radon level can vary significantly from day to day. Sampling the level for 90 days or more gives you a more accurate idea of the average radon level in your home. If you need fast results, only one short-term radon kit was accurate enough for us to recommend. But you should still confirm its results with a long-term test. The digital meter we tested can be used for short- or long-term testing.
Some radon kits underreported. Two of the short-term radon kits we tested underreported radon levels by almost 40 percent.
Determine the risk. Most states have large areas where the radon risk is moderate to high, but radon levels can vary significantly even from one house to the next. The only way to know the level in your home is to test, and after you've done major structural renovations, test again.
Find a qualified pro. Radon-removal systems can cut the level to 2 pCi/L or lower, the EPA says. They cost $800 to $2,500, or about $1,200 for an average house. Find a trained pro at epa.gov/radon or by contacting your state radon office.