Radon FAQs

The Most Frequently Asked Questions


What is Radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring, odorless, and colorless radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Uranium is a common component of soil around the world. Radon is the only gaseous element along the uranium-238 radioactive decay chain.

Long term exposure to elevated radon creates an increased risk of lung cancer. Illinois Emergency Management Agency and EPA recommend that radon levels in excess of 4.0 pCi/L be reduced.

How Does it Get Into My House?

Because radon is a gas, it can enter buildings through openings or cracks in the foundation, unsealed sump pits, crawlspaces with exposed earth.

How Does Radon Effect Me?

Radon’s primary hazard is caused from inhalation of the gas and its highly radioactive heavy metallic decay products (Polonium, Lead, and Bismuth) which tend to collect on dust in the air. The problem arises when these elements stick to the delicate cells lining the passageways leading into the lungs.

Radon has been identified as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States (second only to smoking.) The Environmental Protection Agency reports that radon causes approximately 22,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the United States. Next to smoking, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Scientific studies of radon exposure indicate that children may be more sensitive to radon. This may be due to their higher respiration rate and their rapidly dividing cells, which may be more vulnerable to radiation damage.

Every home should be tested for radon regardless of where the home is located, the age of the home, foundation type, ie basement, crawlspace, slab-on grade or any combination of. Homes with elevated radon levels have been found in practically every county in the United States.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has established that if a home or building is found to have a radon level of 4 pCi/l or higher, action should be taken to reduce it. In most cases, radon levels can be reduced to 2 pCi/l or lower with the installation of an active radon mitigation system.

Indoor radon has been judged to be the most serious environmental carcinogen to which the general public is exposed and which the EPA must address.

The alpha radiation emitted by radon is the exact same alpha radiation that is emitted by any other alpha generating radiation source, like plutonium.

What is the Acceptable Level of Radon?

The IEMA and US EPA have established the “action level” for deciding when you need to “do something” about the radon in your home, school, or work place is 4 pCi/l.

Are there Other Symptoms or Health Problems, Other Than Lung Cancer that are Associated with Radon Gas Exposure?

THERE ARE NO SHORT-TERM RADON EXPOSURE SYMPTOMS that have ever been documented. Also, YOU WILL NOT HAVE ANY OTHER bodily symptoms such as joint pain, stomach or intestinal problems, headaches, or rashes from short-term radon exposure at natural environmental levels. The only known (documented) symptoms are the same as those listed here for smoking induced Lung Cancer Symptoms.

Radon is a radioactive element that is part of the radioactive decay chain of naturally occurring uranium in soil. You can’t see radon.  You can’t smell radon and you can’t taste radon. Unlike carbon monoxide and many other home pollutants, radon’s adverse health effect, lung cancer, is usually not produced immediately.  Thus you may be exposed to radon for many years without ever suspecting its presence in your home.

The USEPA action level for radon is 4.0 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L).  The risk of developing lung cancer at 4.0 pCi/L is estimated at about 7 lung cancer deaths per 1000 persons.  That is why USEPA and IEMA recommends reducing your radon level if the concentration is 4.0 pCi/L or more.  Lung cancer in humans arising from radon exposure is recognized by the following health and environmental organizations:

  • American Medical Association
  • U.S. Surgeon General
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • U.S. Public Health Service
  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • Center for Disease Control
  • National Academy of Science
  • National Cancer Institute
  • World Health Organization

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