Radon is an odorless and colorless radioactive gas that forms during the decay of radium 226, an element found in varying concentrations in some soils and bedrock. It's a health hazard, because prolonged exposure to it can lead to an increased risk of lung cancer. No one really knows how many people get cancer from this each year, but the EPA estimates that somewhere between 5,000 and 20,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. can be attributed to radon exposure annually. Fortunately, most home radon problems can be corrected fairly easily. In the seven years I've been performing radon mitigations in New Hampshire and Vermont, I've never encountered a problem I couldn't fix. In most cases, dealing with the problem costs only $1,000 or so — a cheap price, all things considered.

In outdoor locations, radon leaks out in small amounts and is harmlessly diluted by the air. But if you build a house on a site that contains radon in the soil or bedrock, trouble can start. First, digging a foundation can open pathways that make it easier for the radon to reach the surface; blasting ledge, in particular, can open fissures that...

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