What is Radon and How Do I Test for It?

What is Radon and How Do I Test for It?


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What is radon? You may have seen an ad for radon abatement or radon testing and inspection and wondered if you had anything to worry about in your home. Read on for an answer to the question “what is radon” and whether or not you should be concerned:

What is Radon?

Radon is a gas produced by the natural decay of the radioactive element, uranium. Uranium is in our rocks and our dirt is small amounts. Radon gas has no color, not taste, and no odor, so it’s impossible to detect by human senses. Testing for radon can only be done by kits and special sensors.

What is the Problem With Radon?

After asking “what is radon,” the next natural question is why it matters. The issue is that it’s possible for radon gas to become concentrated inside of buildings, such as your home. Radon gas is capable of moving through soil and easily travels through small places in foundations. Any drains, crawl spaces, cracks, and gaps for wires and pipes can funnel radon into a home. Also, certain parts of the earth naturally have more radon than other parts, which means some homes will be at more risk for radon than homes in other places. In the United States, the central and northern parts of Illinois, for example, have more radon than most of the country.

What are the Health Effects of Radon Exposure?

Radon, when inhaled, damages the tissue of the human lungs. Over time, lung cancer can result. Just as with smoking, not everyone who is exposed to radon will develop lung cancer, and it may take years for exposure to lead to cancer. The United States Surgeon General estimates that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Estimates say that lowering the radon levels in a home to below the EPA’s action level could result in a 2% to 4% decrease in lung cancer.

What Kinds of Tests for Radon are There?

There are kits available at most hardware stores that will allow you to do a short-term preliminary test of your home. These short-term detectors will measure radon levels for about a week, or possibly longer depending on the device. Based on those results, you’ll know whether you need to contact a radon testing company for a long-term test, which measures concentrations for three months or more.

What is Radon Mitigation?

Radon mitigation is simply ridding your home of as much radon as possible. Several types of systems will be available, and a radon mitigation company will be able to lay out all the possible options for you. Passive mitigation is typically able to reduce levels by more than 50%, and adding ventilation fans can reduce it even further.

Radon has the potential to cause a lot of health issues, but it’s not impossible either to detect or to get rid of. If you’re concerned, get a short-term test and see where you stand. If you have any reason to be concerned after that, contact a local radon mitigation and abatement company and evaluate your options. It might be one of the best decisions you ever make for your own health and the health of your family.