Saturday, December 9, 2017

86 The 86

Squirrels are all around us in the environment, occasionally seeping into our houses, where they manufacture mayhem in the form of gnawing on things that do not belong to them, such as electrical wiring, with the ultimate goal of setting us on fire or otherwise demolishing our bank accounts, and you can't always see them, but you know where they've been because they leave behind little piles of masticated figs, in season. And that's how you can tell them from radon.

Radon is even sneakier. Radon cannot be seen or felt, and nevertheless can cause great harm, just like squirrels or the plutocracy. It is a colorless and odorless gas and has such a strong invisibility component that it can make an entire high school disappear, as it did not too long ago right here in Northeast Portland. As the sad case of the disappearing high school demonstrates, radon is not a problem at all until it's detected, and then all hell breaks loose, in spite of which people are now working on more detection instead of less.

Formerly Adams High School
Radon was discovered initially over a hundred years ago and was often found to be lurking in coal mines and causing lung cancer in miners, which led to a demand for more ventilation in mines, thus rendering them safe as hell except for the coal dust, explosions, and the possibility of imminent mountain collapse. Once the mines were taken care of, nobody gave a shit about radon for a good 85 years, until a nuclear power plant worker named Stanley showed up at work glowing eerily. He, alone among his coworkers, tested high for radiation, so someone followed him home and discovered his house packed with radon. This led to job growth and a healthy boom time for radon detection and mitigation.

The gas seeps up naturally from the ground, chiefly in County Cork, Ireland and Iowa, but also in random locations all over the world, possibly including your house. Look around: can you see or smell anything? If not, you may have radon. The gas is light enough to get into your house but heavy enough to hang out primarily in your basement. It is so sneaky and particular it can even register in one room of your house but not another, and the only way to determine this without a radon detector is to place a middle-aged person in each room, with cable TV and snacks, and wait to see which one gets lung cancer.

There are various ways to mitigate radon in the home. One can punch holes in the house sufficient to let the radon out and keep the cat in, or, better yet, lift the home up on stilts and throw a rubber sheet under it over a ventilation system to coax the radon out from under the sheet and into your neighbor's house. Both options are a pain in the ass that would never have been necessary before that nuclear power plant worker messed things up for us. Gone are the golden days when people just up and died natural and nobody said boo about it. Clearly there is no upside to detecting radon in your home unless you're a smoker, in which case you can take a high radon reading as a reason to say well fuck it and go ahead and smoke inside like you always wanted to.

You'll still need a BB gun for the squirrels.

24 comments:

  1. Thanks for an enjoyable read on this early morning. Now I am wondering where in the heck they installed the radon detector when we built our home.

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    1. Don't look for it! It will only mean trouble!

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  2. As a species we are pretty good at devising new and unpleasant deaths for ourselves aren't we?

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  3. Is radon the major component of drano, I wonder? Maybe that's how it gets around - people pour it down the draiins to clear the fat burgers and it rearranges its spelling. Sneaky little bugger!

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    1. Oh, you're so weird. We love that.

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    2. I think you’re on to something here! :-o

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  4. I remember radon being a big deal at the turn of the millennium, and even getting free radon test kits to put in our basement. Thankfully, we were free of radon. My theory is that it tried to get in, but the black mold killed it.

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    1. God. Competing plagues. We're suspecting possible rats now: can we mildew them? You've got me strategizing.

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  5. Well then, maybe it was Radon that gave my dad lung cancer, not the two packs of ciggies a day that he smoked from the age of eleven. I don't know that we have any Radon out here.

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    1. I'll go with radon for my dad's throat cancer too, while we're at it. He apparently used to smoke but he quit before I was born. Doesn't seem fair. Radon it is.

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  6. Radon is an American thing, right?

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  7. All these new fangled building codes that have housed caulked up tight as a drum. Open your windows, people, and you will not need to stress about radon. Now, radioactive granite countertops (another designer fad) are something else again.

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    1. Aw, man, you almost made me look up the countertops.

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  8. Just joking about the countertops

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  9. So nice to know that one can get lung cancer without all the expense and inconvenience of smoking. We have it in spades in this area especially where bedrock is exposed.

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  10. Just saw Ms. Katz died. She was wonderful, she did as much as NG did, but perhaps more meaningful in a social sense.

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    1. I heard it from you, first. Right here on my blog. It's a weird world.

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  11. We need to get a kit and test our basement. Mostly just the cats are down there but I worry about them, too. Our little street is on the caution map, but not the streets around us. Lucky or what.

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    1. There are caution maps? Uh-oh. I don't want to know. Hey, speaking of things to worry about when you have cats--"they're" saying furniture and wall-to-wall carpeting flame-retardants are implicated in the feline thyroid diseases. And that they (and human babies) are particularly susceptible because they spend so much time on the floor. Bleah.

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