What is Radon? Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, odorless gas that comes from deposits of uranium in soil, rock and water. It is harmlessly dispersed in outdoor air but, when trapped in buildings, can be harmful, especially at elevated levels. Elevated levels of radon have been found in homes in every state. Radon concentrations can vary greatly from one location to another, even between neighboring homes, because of localized soil composition, construction materials, ventilation and other contributing environmental factors. Any home can have a radon problem, regardless of whether it is old or new, drafty or insulated, with or without a basement.
What are the health effects of radon? Radon in the air can be inhaled into the lungs, where it begins to undergo radioactive decay. As this happens, it releases small bursts of energy called alpha particles, which can harm sensitive lung tissue by damaging its DNA. This damaged DNA can lead to lung cancer. A 1999 study by the National Research Council indicates that radon causes 15,000 to 22,000 preventable lung cancer deaths per year in America.
How can I fix my home if it has elevated levels of radon? Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation is a basic part of most approaches to radon reduction. However, by itself, sealing has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently. In most cases venting systems with pipes and fans – called “sub-slab depressurization” – are used to more effectively reduce radon. Other methods may also be used depending on your home’s design and specific situation.