Radon is a carcinogenic gas that is hazardous to inhale. Build-up of radon in
homes is a health concern and many lung cancer cases are attributed to radon
exposure each year. About 12% of lung cancers and more than 20,000 Americans die
of radon-related lung cancer each year. The Surgeon General of the United States
has issued a Health Advisory warning Americans about the health risk from
exposure to radon in indoor air. Dr. Carmona, the Nation’s Chief
Physician urged Americans to test their homes to find out how much
radon they might be breathing. He also stressed the need to remedy the problem
as soon as possible.
You cannot see, smell, or taste radon. But it still may be a problem in your
home. When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting
lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General of the United States has warned that
radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today.
If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer
is especially high.
Testing is the only way to find out your home’s radon
levels. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes
below the third floor for radon. If you find that you have high radon levels,
there are ways to fix a radon problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to
acceptable levels. Radon has been found in homes all over the United States. It
comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets
into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air
above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Radon
can also enter your home through well water. Your home can trap radon inside.
Any home can have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed
and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. In fact, you and your
family are most likely to get your greatest radiation exposure at home. That is
where you spend most of your time. Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the United
States is estimated to have an elevated radon level. Elevated levels of radon
gas have been found in homes in your state.
EPA’s Radon Testing Check List:
- Notify the occupants of the importance of proper testing conditions. Give the
occupants written instructions or a copy of this Guide and explain the
- Conduct the radon test for a minimum of 48 hours; some test devices have a
minimum exposure time greater than 48 hours.
- When doing a short-term test ranging from 2-4 days, it is important to
maintain closed-house conditions for at least 12 hours before the beginning of
the test and during the entire test period.
- When doing a short-term test ranging from 4-7 days, EPA recommends that
closed-house conditions be maintained.
- If you hire someone to do the test, hire only a qualified
individual. Some states issue photo identification (ID) cards; ask to
see it. The tester’s ID number, if available, should be included or noted in
the test report.
- The test should include method(s) to prevent or detect interference with
testing conditions or with the testing device itself.
- If the house has an active radon-reduction system, make sure the vent fan is
operating properly. If the fan is not operating properly, have it (or ask to
have it) repaired and then test.
If your home has not yet been tested for Radon have a test taken as soon as
possible. If you can, test your home before putting it on the market. You
should test in the lowest level of the home which is suitable for occupancy.
This means testing in the lowest level that you currently live in or a lower
level not currently used, but which a buyer could use for living space without
The radon test result is important information about your home’s radon
level. Some states require radon measurement testers to follow a specific
testing protocol. If you do the test yourself, you should carefully follow the
testing protocol for your area or EPA’s Radon Testing Checklist. If you hire a
contractor to test your residence, protect yourself by hiring a
qualified individual or company.
Many states require radon professionals to be licensed, certified, or
registered. Most states can provide you with a list of knowledgeable radon
service providers doing business in the state. In states that don’t regulate
radon services, ask the contractor if they hold a professional
proficiency or certification credential. Such programs usually
provide members with a photo-ID card, which indicates their qualification(s) and
its expiration date. If in doubt, you should check with their credentialing
organization. Alternatively, ask the contractor if they’ve successfully
completed formal training appropriate for testing or mitigation, e.g.,
a course in radon measurement or radon mitigation.
If you are thinking of selling your home and you have already tested your
home for radon, review the Radon Testing Checklist to make sure that
the test was done correctly. If so, provide your test results to the buyer.
No matter what kind of test you took, a potential buyer may ask for a new
test especially if:
- The Radon Testing Checklist items were not met;
- The last test is not recent, e.g., within two years;
- You have renovated or altered your home since you tested; or
- The buyer plans to live in a lower level of the house than was tested, such
as a basement suitable for occupancy but not currently lived in.
A buyer may also ask for a new test if your state or local government
requires disclosure of radon information to buyers.
Radon Myths and Facts
MYTH: Scientists are not sure that radon really is a
FACT: Although some scientists
MYTH: Radon testing is difficult, time-consuming and
FACT: Radon testing is easy and
MYTH: Radon testing devices are not reliable and are
FACT: Reliable testing devices are
MYTH: Homes with radon problems can’t be fixed.
FACT: There are simple solutions to
MYTH: Radon affects only certain kinds of homes.
FACT: House construction can affect
MYTH: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the
FACT: High radon levels have been
MYTH: A neighbor’s test result is a good indication of
FACT: It’s not. Radon levels can
MYTH: It’s difficult to sell homes where radon problems
FACT: Where radon problems have been
MYTH: I’ve lived in my home for so long, it doesn’t make
FACT: You will reduce your risk of
MYTH: Short-term tests can’t be used for making a decision
FACT: A short-term test, followed by a second