Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the decay of radium in the soil. It is constantly being generated by the radium in rocks, soil, water and materials made from rocks and soil, like some building materials. This gas is odorless, colorless, invisible and can only be detected with the use of special equipment. Radon enters homes from the soil through cracks and openings. The ventilation rate and air flow patterns in the home affect how much radon will exist in various areas of the home.
Radon levels can be reduced in a home. There are several methods. Ventilation is the key. Sub-basement ventilation is the most effective. Many new homes built today with structural basement floors have these ventilation systems installed. Homes without these systems can have them added.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. The US Environmental Protection Agency has determined a level of 4 pCi/L as the recommended level. Measurements can be made by professionals or by homeowners themselves. Reliable testing devices are available by phone, mail order, in retail outlets or online. Testing over long periods of time is suggested because the levels can change dramatically over time. Testing in various areas of the home is necessary because radon levels will vary greatly in these different areas.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association all agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. The risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers. And the fact is that you can reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce the levels, even if you have lived with the high radon levels for a long time.
House construction can affect radon levels, but radon can be a problem in all types of homes: old, new, drafty, insulated and homes with or without basements. High levels of radon have been found in every state. Levels can vary greatly from house to house so testing of each house is recommended.
Where radon levels have been reduced to safe levels by adding the ventilaton systems, home sales have actually been enhanced because of the added protection.