What Is Radon?
Radon is a radioactive noble gas which is naturally formed through the decay of radioactive heavy metal elements uranium and thorium which are found throughout the Earth's crust. The average concentration of radon in ambient air is 0.45 pCi/L in the U.S and it is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. The common occurring isotopes of radon are radon-222 (Radon), radon-220 (Thoron), and radon-219 (Actinon), and have a half life of 3.82 days, 55 seconds, and 4 seconds respectively.
How Dangerous Is Radon?
What many people don't know is that radon causes roughly 21,000 deaths due to lung cancer each year because of its radioactive nature. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer overall. Children have been reported to have greater risk when compared to adults for certain types of cancer from radiation, but there is currently no conclusive data on whether children are at greater risk than adults from radon exposure alone.
Radon is heavier than most air molecules, causing it to sink and accumulate in low parts of the home such as basements or bottom floors. Because it is inert, it is often found as a single atom which allows it to easily penetrate most common building materials such as concrete, paint, drywall, and wood paneling. Being smaller than water molecules, radon can also penetrate most waterproof coatings and materials. Radon-220, also called Thoron, is emitted by building materials like concrete and may contribute 5% to 20% of the total radon level in homes.
The average levels for radon are 0.4 pCi/L outdoors and 1.3pCi/l indoors. 4 pCi/L is the EPA's recommended action level for indoors, meaning steps should be taken to lower radon levels. At this level, the lifetime lung cancer mortality risk for radon is 7 in 1,000 for non-smokers and 62 in 1,000 for smokers. Homes with radon levels at 4 pCi/L or higher should be mitigated. Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose some risk and in many cases may be reduced. The EPA recommends that you consider mitigating your home if it tests between 2 and 4 pCi/L.
An EPA study found nearly 1 in 3 homes checked in seven states and on three Indian lands had screening levels over 4 pCi/L. To put that into perspective, a family living in a home with radon levels of 4 pCi/L is exposed to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site (25 mrem limit, 800 mrem exposure).
Any radon exposure carries some risk. No level of radon is safe. Even radon levels below 4 pCi/L pose some risk, and you can reduce your risk of lung cancer by lowering your radon level.
Should You Test For Radon?
Testing is the only way to know your home’s radon levels. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless and there are no immediate symptoms that will alert you to the presence of radon. It typically takes years of exposure before any problems surface. Testing your home for radon is recommended by the EPA, Surgeon General, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, and National Safety Council because testing is the only way to know your home’s radon levels.
Elevated radon levels have been discovered in every state making it a national environmental health problem. As many as 8 million homes throughout the country have elevated levels of radon according to EPA estimates. Current state surveys show that 20% of homes have elevated radon levels.
NWA Mold Inspector does professional testing for radon in homes and businesses. Contact us to find out more about the testing process and to schedule an appointment.