Would you let your children watch television in your basement if you knew they were being exposed to dangerous levels of radioactive gas? Would you work in your home office or let your teenager sleep in the basement knowing that you had unhealthful levels of radon gas in the basement? Of course not. No one would knowingly expose loved ones to potentially fatal health risks that can be easily and inexpensively identified and remedied. But, if you don't test you don't know.

The State of Illinois passed the Illinois Radon Awareness Act in 2007. The Radon Awareness Act "strongly recommends" that every homeowner and home buyer test their home for elevated levels of radon in the home, to protect the occupants from radon-induced lung cancer.

Radon is a radioactive soil gas that is drawn into the home through the cracks of your foundation, plumbing and electrical penetrations, floor drains, wall cavities, crawl spaces and sump pumps. Radon gas is caused by the decay of uranium in the soil on which a home is built and you can't see it, smell it, or taste it.

Radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The U.S. Surgeon General estimates that 21,000 people in the United States die each year from radon-induced lung cancer. The EPA has determined that levels of 4 pC/L (picocurries per liter of air) or greater put a homeowner at risk of developing radon-induced lung cancer.

For years a myth has persisted that Chicago's North and Northwest suburbs don't have elevated levels of radon. Validated statistics show there are elevated levels of radon throughout these communities and one home can have minimal levels of radon while a neighboring home has elevated levels. While the number of homes with high levels is smaller in Evanston and Wilmette, the number grows as you move north and west. Here's a sampling of those communities and the percentage of homes testing greater than 4 pC/L: Glencoe – 17%; Highland Park – 23%; Arlington Heights – 31%; and Glenview – 32%.

Don't leave the health of your loved ones to chance. The only way to know if your house has elevated levels of radon is to test it yourself or to have it tested by a radon measurement professional, licensed by the State of Illinois. The cost is less than the services of a plumber for an hour. If your home has elevated levels of radon (>4pCi/L) a mitigation system can be installed in less than a day at a surprisingly reasonable cost.

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