May 23, 2022
Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Some scientific studies of radon exposure indicate that children may be more sensitive to radon due to their higher respiration rate and their rapidly diving cells, making them more vulnerable to radiation damage.
Radon is not produced as a commercial product. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas and comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium. It is usually found in igneous rock and soil.
The primary route of potential human exposure to radon is inhalation. Radon in the ground or building materials enters working and living spaces and disintegrates into its decay products.
The average person receives a higher dose of radiation from the radon levels in their home than from their combined exposure to all other radiation sources, natural or man-made. Depending on your geographic location, the radon levels of the air you breathe outside of your home may be as high as 0.75 pCi/L. The national average of outside radon levels is 0.4 pCi/L and it is estimated by the National Academy of Sciences that outdoor radon levels cause approximately 800 of the 21,000 radon induced lung cancer deaths in the US each year.
Radon Act 51 passed by Congress set the natural outdoor level of radon gas (0.4 pCi/L) as the target radon level for indoor radon levels. Unfortunately two-thirds of all homes exceed this level. The US EPA was tasked with setting practical guidelines and recommendations for the nation. To this end, the US EPA has set an action level of 4 pCi/L. At or above this level of radon, the EPA recommends you take corrective measures to reduce your exposure to radon gas.
Testing is the only way to know your home’s radon levels. There are no immediate symptoms that will alert you to the presence of radon. It typically takes years of exposure before any problems surface. The US EPA, Surgeon General, American Lung Association, American Medical Association and National Safety Council recommend testing your home for radon because testing is the only way to know your home’s radon levels.
According to the US EPA, nearly 1 in 3 homes checked in seven states and on three Indian lands had screening levels over 4 pCi/L, the EPA’s recommended action level for radon exposure. A family whose home has radon levels of 4 pCi/L is exposed to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site.