What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that 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.
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.
How do I know if there is radon in my home?
You cannot see, feel, smell, or
taste radon. Testing your home is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. The EPA and the Surgeon
General recommend testing for radon in all homes. The EPA also recommends testing in schools.
You cannot predict radon levels
based on state, local, and neighborhood radon measurements. Do not rely on radon test results taken in other homes in
the neighborhood to estimate the radon level in your home. Homes which are next to each other can have different radon
levels. Testing is the only way to find out what your home's radon level is.
What can I do to protect myself and my family from radon?
The first step is to test your home for radon, and have it fixed if it is at
or above EPA's Action Level of 4 picocuries per liter.
How can radon affect people's health?
Almost all risk from radon comes from breathing air
with radon and its decay products. Radon decay products cause lung cancer. The health risk of ingesting radon, in water for
example, is dwarfed by the risk of inhaling radon and its decay products. They occur in indoor air or with tobacco smoke.
Alpha radiation directly causes damage to sensitive lung tissue. Most of the radiation dose is not actually from radon itself,
though, which is mostly exhaled. It comes from radon's chain of short-lived solid decay products that are inhaled and lodge
in the airways of the lungs.
What does radon do once it gets into the body?
Most of the radon gas that you inhale is also exhaled.
However, some of radon's decay products attach to dusts and aerosols in the air and are then readily deposited in the lungs.
Some of these are cleared by the lung's natural defense system, and swallowed or coughed out. Those particles that are retained
long enough release radiation damaging surrounding lung tissues. A small amount of radon decay products in the lung are absorbed
into the blood.