Frequently Asked Radon Questions
Are the radon levels something I really need to be concerned with?
Yes. For most people, radon is their largest source of exposure to nuclear radiation. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified radon as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Many homes, particularly homes in the Midwest, contain radon concentrations that are high enough to give their occupants lifetime exposures of the same size as those received by underground miners who showed the increased risk of lung cancer mortality.
What is it about Radon that makes it harmful?
When radon and its decay products are inhaled into your lungs they emit alpha particles. These alpha particles can strike the sensitive lining of the bronchi. When this happens, the cells in your lungs are damaged, subsequently increasing your risk to radon-related cancer. Most of the alpha particle radiation comes from radon decay products. However, since it is easier to measure radon rather than its decay products, people usually characterize the exposure by the amount of the radon in their living spaces.
How does Radon move around?
Radon can move by diffusion in response to a concentration difference or by advection in response to a pressure difference. Radon leaves the ground generally by diffusion. Radon travels into houses generally by a combination of diffusion and advection. In most soils radon doesn’t travel more than a few feet before decaying.
What levels of radon are safe?
Unknown. Studies of the effects of Radon in homes have produced mixed results. Some studies indicate a positive association, others don’t. These are very difficult studies to do well because smoking-related lung cancer is such a large component of the total lung cancer rate and because it is very difficult to reconstruct the lifetime does from radon decay products for any individual. It is virtually impossible to avoid exposure to radon concentrations below 1pCi/L because outdoor air generally contains radon concentrations from 0.1 to 1pCi/L.
Is Radon-related lung cancer fatal?
Most often, yes. Lung cancer is a disease that has a very poor survival rate. Prevention is the most effective defense. Don’t smoke and don’t breathe elevated concentrations of Radon.
Why are the radon levels in my home “high” and my neighbors “low?”
Many things influence the amount of the radon in the home. The variation in radon levels from home-to-home comes from the variation in the factors that control radon entry and retention. There are some many factors like the structure of the soil, the way the house is connected to the ground, the way the house is heated and cooled, that is extremely difficult to predict accurately the radon in neighboring homes. We’ve found that , in ILLINOIS neighborhoods, most of the homes are within a factor of 2 of the average. If the neighbors average is 20pCi/L, your home is likely to have radon between 10 and 40pCi/L