Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas.
What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally-occurring, radioactive gas found in the soil. Exposure to radon has been linked to the development of lung cancer; in fact, it is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the US, according to the Surgeon General. It’s been referred to as “the silent killer” since it has no taste, color, or smell, and many people don’t even know what levels they are being exposed to.
Where can radon be found?
Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon can be found all over the U.S. It can get into any type of building — homes, offices, and schools — and result in a high indoor radon level. You and your family are most likely to get your greatest exposure at home, where you spend most of your time.
Why should you test for radon?
Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. Testing is inexpensive and easy — it should only take a few minutes of your time. Millions of Americans have already tested their homes for radon. Join them today and gain the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you and your family are safe from cancer-causing radon gas
What effect does radon exposure have on my health?
Lung cancer is the only documented health risk associated with radon exposure. When radon gas particles are breathed in, they can become trapped in your lungs. These radioactive particles decay and release energy bursts that can damage lung tissue, which can lead to the development of lung cancer. The higher the levels of radon in your home, the more you breathe in these particles, putting you at higher risk. Your chances of developing lung cancer depend on several factors, including:
- the levels of radon in your home
- how much time you spend in your home
- your history of smoking
The greater these factors, especially your smoking history, the greater the risk for lung cancer. Radon-induced lung cancer doesn’t set in overnight; it could be years from the time of exposure that cancer develops.
The EPA estimates that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year can be attributed to radon exposure. The Wold Health Organization believes that up to 15% of lung cancer deaths worldwide are caused by radon. While the exact number is debated, all major health organizations agree that radon can be linked to thousands of deaths – most of which are preventable.
How do I find out about my home’s radon levels?
The only way to know your home’s levels is to test. The EPA recommends all homes be tested, regardless of the age, foundation type, or geographical location. High radon levels have been found in every type of home, even those neighboring homes with low radon levels. Fortunately, testing is neither expensive nor time-consuming.
There are several different styles of radon tests that exist, but it’s typically not necessary to run one of each type. The EPA recommends:
- Conducting a Short-Term test. These are great for primary and exploratory testing, or for cases where results are needed quickly. Short-Term samplers are left out for testing for several days.
- If the results come back below 4.0 pCi/L (the EPA’s action level), no immediate further action is required! The recommendation would be to test again in the next two years to ensure that levels are not rising.
- If the levels come back at or above 4.0 pCi/L, you should run a secondary test to follow-up. Depending on the results, you could run either a Long-Term test or another Short-Term test.
- If between 4.0 pCi/L and 8.0 pCi/L, either a Short-Term or a Long-Term test can be used. Long-Term tests are tested over several months and can provide a better idea of the home’s average radon level over that longer time frame.
- If at or above 8.0 pCi/L, you should run another Short-Term test.
- If the results of the follow-up test are still above 4.0 pCi/L, you should take action to fix your home with mitigation. While levels below 4.0 pCi/L are generally considered to be acceptable, the EPA believes that no level of radon is truly ‘safe’ and that any exposure to radon carries some risk.
What can I do about high levels of radon?
If you have run radon gas tests and your results show high radon levels, the good news is that there are ways to lower those levels! Most homes can be reduced to at or below 2.0 pCi/L, and it’s never too late to reduce this threat to your health.
The term for radon remediation work is mitigation. Licensed mitigators can be found across all states and have been trained to install mitigation systems that reduce your home’s radon levels. To find someone for mitigation work, you should get in touch with your state radon contact (/states), who will have a list of licensed mitigators who do work in your area. Many homes are now being built with radon-resistant features. These construction techniques help create a home that prevents some radon entry and allows for radon to be vented outside. It is more cost-friendly to have these built into the home during construction than afterwards. If your post-construction radon test shows that your home has elevated levels, it is easy to upgrade these already intact features. Many contractors are already familiar with some of these radon resistant features. For more information about these systems, you can also view the EPA’s helpful guide .
No matter what steps are taken to reduce levels, it is always recommended to run a test after the work has been completed to ensure that everything is operating properly.
- On our website:
- From the EPA
- For Contacting Radon and Mitigation Professional