What is radon?
Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. It forms naturally from the decay of radioactive elements, such as uranium, which are found at different levels in soil and rock throughout the world. Radon gas in the soil and rock can move into the air and into ground water and surface water.
Radon is present outdoors and indoors. It is normally found at very low levels in outdoor air and in drinking water from rivers and lakes. It can be found at higher levels in the air in houses and other buildings, as well as in water from underground sources, such as well water.
How are people exposed to radon?
For both adults and children, most exposure to radon comes from being indoors in homes, commercial buildings, schools, and other places. The levels of radon in homes and other buildings depend on the characteristics of the rock and soil in the area. As a result, radon levels vary greatly in different parts of the United States, even within neighborhoods. Elevated radon levels have been found in every state.
The radon gas given off by soil or rock can enter buildings through cracks in floors or walls; construction joints; or gaps in foundations around pipes, wires, or pumps. Radon levels are usually highest in the basement or crawl space. This level is closest to the soil or rock that is the source of the radon. Therefore, people who spend much of their time in basement rooms at home or at work have a greater risk for being exposed.
Does radon cause cancer?
Long-term exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer. Radon gas in the air breaks down to other radioactive elements (radon progeny). Radon progeny are tiny radioactive particles that can lodge in the lining of the lungs, where they continue to break down into other radioactive elements by releasing radiation. The radiation released in this “radioactive decay” process can damage lung cells and eventually lead to lung cancer.
Cigarette smoking is by far the most common cause of lung cancer in the United States, but radon is the second leading cause. Scientists estimate that about 20,000 lung cancer deaths per year are related to radon.
Can I avoid exposure to radon?
For most people, the largest potential source of radon exposure is in the home. You can check radon levels in your home to determine if you need to take steps to lower them. Do-it-yourself radon detection kits can be ordered through the mail or bought in hardware or home supply stores. The kits are placed in the home for a period of time and then mailed to a lab for analysis. Short-term kits are usually left in place for several days before being mailed. Long-term kits, which may give a more accurate assessment of average radon levels over the course of a year, are usually left in place for at least 3 months. The EPA recommends testing all homes below the 3rd floor, even new homes that were built “radon-resistant.”
Another way to test radon levels in your home is to hire a professional. Qualified contractors can be found through state radon offices, which are listed on the EPA web site at www.epa.gov/radon/whereyoulive.html.
The EPA recommends taking steps to lower radon levels if test results show levels of 4.0 pCi/L or higher. This value refers to the annual average. If you are using a do-it-yourself test, the EPA recommends using a short-term kit first. If the test result is 4.0 pCi/L or higher, do a follow-up test with either a long-term or short-term kit to be sure. If the result is still high, you should take steps to fix the problem.
Having your home or potential home tested, the results of the radon test are available after the test is performed (48 hour test).
Call us today to have your home tested.