By Art Nash
What did it cost you last time you went to the doctor or dentist? I mean before any insurance, Medicare or Medicaid kicked in to bring down the cost. And that may have been just for a routine checkup or work/school annual physical. What if you needed treatment for lung cancer?
The National Cancer Institute reports that the cost for the initial treatment of lung cancer in 2010 was $60,553 for women and $60,885 for men. Subsequent annual continued treatment was $8,130 and $7,591 respectively. The problem with this cancer is not only treatment expenditures, but also of survival. According to the America Cancer Society, most lung cancers have already spread widely and are an advanced stage when they are first found.
But what if a simple test could alert you the presence of the second leading cause of lung cancer — radon? There are certified professionals who, for a couple hundred dollars, will give you a detailed hourly average of radon levels in your home with sophisticated machinery.
You can also test the radon levels in your home with an easily available test kit containing activated charcoal, which is no different than what is used in common shoe deodorizers. The kit will give you an overall average of what the concentration of radon gas is in your home over a 48-hour period. Though the lab fee varies, the kits generally cost around $15-$20. Kits that also include the analysis are also available from Extension district offices or by ordering one at (877)520-5211.
And then what? If you have radon in your home what would the cost be to fix it? If it means merely filling in cracks in your cement floor or wall, you have some sweat equity and possibly $25 in patch materials. If you have a crawl space without any secure covering, you may run into a solid day and possibly $100 of materials, with the possibility of a sore back for the next week from leaning over.
If you invested either of those, and then spend a couple more hundred dollars to get a furnace repair man to balance your furnace and heat recovery ventilator (HRV) — and are still experiencing high radon levels, you can put in a PVC pipe chimney. This will evacuate the radon by depressurizing the soil under the floor. That will cost you up to $4,000 locally to have it professionally installed. Or you could buy 4-inch PVC pipe, rent a pile driver, and spend a $150 fan for a total around $600. You may then throw in a $125 monitor to make sure it works continually.
If you are building a new house and haven’t put in the foundation yet, you might have PVC or ABS piping put in under plastic sheeting and the cement slab for around $1,000-$1,500. Given the scattered uranium throughout the state, it will be all the more important for contractors to utilize radon-resistant construction so that from the git-go there is not only protective vapor barrier secured on the ground but also semipermeable membrane material such as Bituthene adhered to any pony walls before backfilling soils.
Remember, no matter where you are currently living, the only way you’ll know if you have a radioactive radon problem, is to test.
Art Nash is the energy specialist for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. Contact him at (907)-474-6366 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.