Radon is a colorless, odorless, and radioactive gas that results from the decay of uranium and radium. Houses on or near sources of uranium can draw in the gas from the soil through cracks and openings in the basement floor. Negative pressure in the house, created by operating exhaust fans in the bathroom or kitchen, can enhance pulling in more radon and other contaminants into the house. After it enters the house, radon continues to decay and microscopic solid particles are formed. These particles are radioactive. They can easily attach to other solid particles such as dust or smoke, which can then be inhaled deep into the lungs. Radiation released in the lungs from these particles can damage lung tissues and eventually cause lung cancer. Radon can also contaminate well water. When water is used in the house, radon is released into the air. Although it is not always on the front page of the news, radon gas in a home environment is recognized as a significant health hazard.
Testing for radon levels is inexpensive and should be done by the homeowner or a professional. Based on a national residential radon survey completed in 1991, the average indoor radon level is 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) in the United States. The average outdoor level is about 0.4 pCi/L. If the radon level is high (> 4 Pico Curies/liter) action should be taken through a certified radon contractor to reduce the levels. Symptoms due to radon exposure appear after many years of exposure; there are no immediate symptoms. Radon in indoor air is estimated to cause between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States. Smokers are at higher risk of developing radon-induced lung cancer. There is no evidence that other respiratory diseases, such as asthma, are caused by radon exposure and there is no evidence that children are at any greater risk of radon induced lung cancer than adults.
Important Radon Resource: