Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas.
You can’t see radon. And you can’t smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home.
Radon is estimated to cause many thousands of deaths each year. That’s because when you breathe air containing radon, you can get lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
How Does Radon Get Into Your Home?
Radon is a radioactive gas. It comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements.
Radon from soil gas is the main cause of radon problems. Sometimes radon enters the home through well water (see “Radon in Water“). In a small number of homes, the building materials can give off radon, too. However, building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves.
Any home may have a radon problem
You should test for radon.
Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. EPA also recommends testing in schools.
Testing is inexpensive and easy — it should only take a few minutes of your time. Millions of Americans have already tested their homes for radon (see How to Test Your Home).
You can fix a radon problem.
Radon reduction systems work and they are not too costly. Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by up to 99%. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.
Four Things You Can Do During National Radon Action Month
1. Test your home – EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General recommend that all homes in the U.S. be tested for radon. Testing is easy and inexpensive. Learn more about testing your home, including how to obtain an easy-to-use test kit.
2. Attend a National Radon Action Month event in your area – Look for radon events in your community. Contact your state radon program for more information about local radon activities.
3. Spread the word
– spend time during National Radon Action Month encouraging others to learn about radon and test their homes.
- Tell your family and friends about the health risk of radon. Encourage them to test their homes.
- Plan an activity in your community to help raise awareness.
- Write an op-ed or letter to the editor using samples from the event planning resources.
- Attract media attention by working with a local official to get a radon proclamation.
- Download the Event Planning Kit (PDF) (34 pp, 874 K About PDF) for helpful tips on radon action month projects and activities.
- View or order EPA’s free radon publications.
4. Buy a radon-resistant home – If you are considering buying a new home, look for builders who use radon-resistant new construction. Read more about radon-resistant new construction, “Building Radon Out: A Step-by-Step Guide to Build Radon-Resistant Homes“.
- Build Green: It’s Easy to Build New Homes Radon-Resistant …”The good news is you can build your customers a safer, healthier, radon-resistant home. The techniques to prevent radon from entering a home are practical and straightforward for any builder. It’s an inexpensive way to offer families a benefit that could reduce their risk of lung cancer. And it’s a smart way to build trust between you and your customer.” Fuad Reveiz, Member of the National Association of Home Builders
- Builders (MP3, 0:0:30, 491 K)
Radon and Home Sales
More and more, home buyers and renters are asking about radon levels before they buy or rent a home. Because real estate sales happen quickly, there is often little time to deal with radon and other issues. The best thing to do is to test for radon NOW and save the results in case the buyer is interested in them. Fix a problem if it exists so it won’t complicate your home sale. If you are planning to move, read EPA’s pamphlet “Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon,” which addresses some common questions (see also Radon in Real Estate). You can also use the results of two short-term tests done side-by-side (four inches apart) to decide whether to fix your home.
During home sales:
- Buyers often ask if a home has been tested, and if elevated levels were reduced.
- Buyers frequently want tests made by someone who is not involved in the home sale. Your state radon office can assist you in identifying a qualified tester.
- Buyers might want to know the radon levels in areas of the home (like a basement they plan to finish) that the seller might not otherwise test.
Today many homes are built to prevent radon from coming in. Building codes in your state or local area may require these radon-resistant construction features. If you are buying or renting a new home, ask the owner or builder if it has radon-resistant features. The EPA recommends building new homes with radon-resistant features in high radon potential (Zone 1) areas. Even if built radon-resistant, every new home should be tested for radon after occupancy. If you have a test result of 4 pCi/L or more, consult a qualified mitigator to estimate the cost of upgrading to an active system by adding a vent fan to reduce the radon level. In an existing home, the cost to install a radon mitigation system is about the same as for other common home repairs. For more information, refer to EPA’s Map of Radon Zones and other useful EPA documents on radon-resistant new construction (see publications). See also EPA’s Indoor air PLUS new homes certification program.
UT Dept. of Environmental Quality
Radiation Control Division
Radon Hotline Number: 1-800-458-0145
Fax: (801) 553-4097
Indoor Radon Coordinator: Christine Keyser, firstname.lastname@example.org, (801) 536-0091
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Indoor Air Quality Information by state – www.cdc.gov/nceh/airpollution/indoor_air.htm
**All above information is from the EPA.gov site for radon for information and public awareness of radon gas.
**Illustration provided by the National Radon Program Services – 1st Place Winner is Maison, Age 13 of Provo, UT