Naturally-occurring radon is responsible for the majority of the public exposure to ionizing radiation.


Radon is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that occurs everywhere in the environment as a by-product of the natural decay of uranium that is within the earth. It is present in varying quantities in the atmosphere and the soils throughout the United States. About one out of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have elevated levels of radon. The EPA estimates that exposure to radon is responsible for 5,000 to 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. The surgeon general has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.


The harmful effects of radon result due to exposures to radioactive radon decay products when air containing radon gas is inhaled. In the lungs the radioactive decay products can attach to lung tissue resulting in scaring and in the case of prolonged exposure, development of tumors and cancer.

Exposure to elevated levels of radon commonly occurs when radon enters and is trapped in a home. Other sources of radon include drinking water, from private wells, and building materials that may contain uranium ore (stone fire places, etc.). In today’s energy efficient tight homes, radon can actually be influenced to enter and build-up in a home as a result of negative pressures that exist within the home. Mechanical systems such as A/C systems, range and bathroom fans, when operated, result in a negative pressure vacuum effect which actually draws air containing radon through the foundation and into the home. Once in the home, the radon is trapped due to the high efficiency sealing of the structure. The problem is compounded due to climatic issues which result in little or no ventilation during winter months or in the summer time in the southern portions of the United States. The health risk is compounded due to the fact that people spend up to 92 percent of their time in the home where the exposure is occurring. Finally, because radon is a colorless, odorless gas, people have no way of knowing that they are being exposed unless testing is performed.


The radon level of natural air is approximately 1.2 pCi/L (pico-curies per liter). The EPA has established a base level of 4 pCi/L as an indication of an elevated level which may warrant some type of corrective action. The testing procedure consists of placing two (2) charcoal canisters (short term test) in the lowest portion of the home. The test is run for a period from two to seven days and the results are determined through laboratory analysis. If the results indicate a level of 4 pCi/L or greater, then a second long term confirmation test is recommended. If the second test confirms the presence of elevated levels of radon (greater than 4 pCi/L) then mitigation may be required. The mitigation techniques may range from sealing through foundation penetrations to installation of active subfoundation extraction through installation of a ventilation system.

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