Radon is related to over 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. It is a naturally ocurring radiactive gas that cannot be detected by human senses. Radon gas can infiltrate your home and accumalate to high levels, which then increases a person chances of developing lung cancer. The United State Environmental Protection Agency has recognized this issue and set an action level to address the concern of radon gas and lung cancer.
Radon Gas (Rn-222)
Radon gas continues to breakdown in the environement. By products of radon can attach to dust and other floating particles, making it more acceptable to be breathed in. As radon gas breakdowns alpha particles are released and after a series of additional transformations it will eventually stabalize into lead (lead-206). Radon gas has the ability to maneuver through spaces between particles. If a source is large enough and it has the ability to infiltrate a home (or building) through foundation cracks and openings it has the ability to accumalate to high levels. Radon is a noble gas, which means it is inert or will not combine with other chemicals. During the natural radiactive breakdown of uranium (or thorium) radon gas is formed. Uranium, as is radon, is almost present in all type of rock and soil, in different concentrations, throughout the United States.
Radon Gas Infiltration
Radon gas has the ability to move between soil particles and find any crack within a structure. If there is a large enough source radon has the ability to accumalate in homes in buildings. Some types of structures may be more prone to radon infiltration than others, however, every type of structure is still acceptable to the build-up of high indoor radon levels. Basements and crawlspaces create potential areas for radon infiltration. Structural appliances that may create a pressure differentials (such as whole-house fans and range hoods), a persons lifestyle, and other specific structural parameters all have the potential to play a role in the level of indoor radon. Nearly all radon in homes is originated from radon-in-soils. Radon-in-water is also a possible contributer to high indoor radon levels, but rarely is it the actual source of radon that casues a home to accumalate high indoor radon levels. (The USEPA recommends you test the air for radon first, and if found high and are utalizing a ground water source, test your water for radon.)
Radon Action Level (USEPA)
The average indoor radon concentration is about 1.3 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L) and the average outdoor is around 0.4 pCi/L. The USEPA has set an action level of 4.0 pCi/L, which encourages homeowners to take measures to reduce levels. The USEPA also estimate that one out every 15 homes are above the action level. If possible, the USEPA also recommends to consider fixing your home if levels are found above 2.0 pCi/L. Lowering the radon level decreases the chances of developing lung cancer.
The only way to know if your home (or building) has radon is to test. Testing is can be very simple and can be done by the property owner or a professional (certified) radon tester. Certain states out have certain requirements for radon testing and it may be best to obtain services from a certified professional.
Bad River Air Quality Program
► return to Air Quality homepage