What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless gas that comes from deposits of Uranium in the soil, rock and water. It is harmlessly dispersed in the air, but when trapped in buildings can be harmful, especially at elevated levels. Radon is a radioactive decay product of radium, which is itself a decay product of uranium. Uranium and radium are both common elements in the soil.
Why Should I Care?
Over 21,000 people will die this year as a result of exposure to indoor Radon gas. That is one person every 20 minutes which is more than will die from fire, hand guns and carbon monoxide combined.
Where is Radon Found?
The primary source of high levels of radon in homes is from the soil containing uranium that is under and close to the home. Radon has been found in elevated levels in homes in every state, and the Environmental Protection Agency estimates that as many as one in 15 homes across the U.S. have elevated radon levels.
How Does Radon Get Into My House?
Warm air rises. When this happens in your home, it creates a vacuum in the lower areas of the house. Nature abhors a vacuum, so something must rush to fill it. In the case of your home, air seeps in from the around and under your house, and some air is sucked in through openings on the lowest level. Radon gas enters the same way air and other soil gases enter the home; through cracks in the foundation floor or walls, hollow-block walls, openings around floor drains, pipes and sump pumps, or from the bare earth in a crawlspace.
What are the Health Effects of Radon?
Exposure to radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers in the United States. Radon can be inhaled into the lungs, where it undergoes radioactive decay. As it decays, radon releases tiny bursts of energy called alpha particles, which can harm sensitive lung tissue by damaging the DNA. This damaged DNA can lead to lung cancer.
How is Radon Measured?
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/l), a measurement of radioactivity. The U.S. EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that homes with radon levels at or above 4 pCi/l be fixed.