RADON


Radon

What is Radon?

Radon is a gas produced by the radioactive decay of the element radium. Radioactive decay is a natural, spontaneous process in which an atom of one element decays or breaks down to form another element by losing atomic particles (protons, neutrons, or electrons).

The release of this radioactive gas enters the air you breathe, causing a potential health risk to you and your family.

The risks to human health posed by ionizing radiation are well known. Radon gas is by far the most important source of ionizing radiation among gases of natural origin. Radon (Rn-222) is a noble gas formed from radium (Ra-226), which is a decay product of uranium (U-238). Uranium and radium occur naturally in soils and rocks. Other decay products of uranium include the isotopes thoron (Rn-220) and actinon (Rn-219). Radon gas, which has a half-life of 3.8 days, emanates from rocks and soils and tends to concentrate in enclosed spaces, such as underground mines or houses. It is a major contributor to the ionizing radiation dose received by the general population.

Radon gas can be found in just about anywhere. It can get into any type of building — homes, offices, and schools — and build up to high levels.

The risks to human health posed by ionizing radiation are well known. Radon gas is by far the most important source of ionizing radiation among gases of natural origin. Radon (Rn-222) is a noble gas formed from radium (Ra-226), which is a decay product of uranium (U-238). Uranium and radium occur naturally in soils and rocks. Other decay products of uranium include the isotopes thoron (Rn-220) and actinon (Rn-219). Radon gas, which has a half-life of 3.8 days, emanates from rocks and soils and tends to concentrate in enclosed spaces, such as underground mines or houses. It is a major contributor to the ionizing radiation dose received by the general population.

What you should know about Radon

Radon is a cancer causing radioactive gas.You can not see radon and you can not smell or taste it, but it may be a problem in your home. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

You should test for radon. Testing is the only way to find out about your home’s radon level. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing of all homes below the third floor for radon.

You can fix a radon problem. If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to fix a radon problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.

If you are buying a home. EPA recommends that you obtain the radon level in the home you are considering buying. An EPA publication “The Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide” is available through most State Health Departments or Regional EPA offices listed in your local phone book. EPA also recommends that you use a certified or state licensed radon tester to perform the test. If elevated levels are found it is recommended that these levels be reduced. In most cases, a professional can accomplish this at reasonable cost or homeowner installed mitigation system that adheres to the EPA’s approved methods for reduction of radon in a residential structure.

What are the Risk Factors?

Radon is a worldwide health risk in homes. Most radon-induced lung cancers occur from low- and medium-dose exposures in people’s homes. Radon is the second most important cause of lung cancer after smoking in many countries.

  • Lung cancer kills thousands of Americans every year. Smoking, radon, and secondhand smoke are the leading causes of lung cancer. Although lung cancer can be treated, the survival rate is one of the lowest among all those with cancer. From the time of diagnosis, between 11 and 15% of those afflicted will live beyond five years, depending upon demographic factors. In many cases, lung cancer can be prevented.
  • Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. Smoking causes an estimated 159,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. every year (American Cancer Society, 2014).  And the rate among women is rising. On January 11, 1964, Dr. Luther L. Terry, then U.S. Surgeon General, issued the first warning on the link between smoking and lung cancer. Lung cancer now surpasses breast cancer as the number one cause of death among women. A smoker who is also exposed to radon has a much higher risk of lung cancer.
  • Radon is the number-one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates.  Overall, radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. On January 13, 2005, Dr. Richard H. Carmona, the U.S. Surgeon General, issued a national health advisory on radon.
  • Secondhand smoke is the third-leading cause of lung cancer and responsible for an estimated 3,000 lung cancer deaths every year. Smoking affects non-smokers by exposing them to secondhand smoke.  Exposure to secondhand smoke can have serious consequences for children’s health, including asthma attacks, effects on the respiratory tract (e.g., bronchitis, pneumonia), and possibly causing ear infections.

 

All homes should be tested for radon gas exposure, and all homes testing over 4 pCi/L should be fixed.

How Does Radon Enter the Home?

Common Radon Entry Points

There are four main factors that permit radon to seep into homes. All homes have some type of radon-entry pathway:

  • Uranium is present in the soil nearly everywhere in the United States.
  • The soil is permeable enough to allow radon to migrate into a home through the slab, basement or crawlspace.
  • There are pathways for radon to enter the basement, such as small holes, cracks, plumbing penetrations and sump pumps.
  • A difference in air pressure between the basement or crawlspace and the surrounding soil draws radon into the home.

Radon enters through:

    • cracks in otherwise solid floors;
    • gaps in suspended floors;
    • cracks in walls;
    • cavities inside walls;
    • gaps around service pipes;
    • construction joints; and
    • the water supply.

Potential Entry Points: