What is radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas found in soils, rock, and water throughout the U.S. Radon causes lung cancer, and is a threat to health because it tends to collect in homes, sometimes to very high and health-threatening concentrations.
How can radon affect people's health?
Almost all risk from radon comes from breathing air with radon and its decay products. Radon decay products cause lung cancer.
There is no safe level of radon -- any exposure poses some risk of cancer. In two 1999 reports, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded after an exhaustive review that radon in indoor air is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after cigarette smoking. The NAS estimated that 15,000-22,000 Americans die every year from radon-related lung cancer.
How do I know if there is radon in my home?
You cannot see, feel, smell, or taste radon. Testing your home is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing for radon below the third floor in all single family homes and town homes and in all condominiums that are located below the third floor of the building.
What can I do to protect myself and my family from radon?
The first step is to test your home for radon, and have it fixed if it is at or above EPA's Action Level of 4 picocuries per liter. You may want to take action if the levels are in the range of 2-4 picocuries per liter. Generally, levels can be brought below 2 pCi/L fairly simply.
The best method for reducing radon in your home will depend on how radon enters your home and the design of your home. For example, sealing cracks in floors and walls may help to reduce radon. There are also systems that remove radon from the crawl space or from beneath the concrete floor or basement slab that are effective at keeping radon from entering your home. These systems are simple and don't require major changes to your home. Other methods may be necessary.
People who have private wells should test their well water to ensure that radon levels meet EPA's newly proposed standard.
For more information, read the EPA's A Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon and How to Find a Qualified Radon Service Professional in Your Area.