Is There Radon in your Home?

January 12, 2016

Is There Radon in Your Home?

Radon is a colorless, odorless, naturally-occurring radioactive gas that may threaten

health in high concentration. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S.  Any home in any community may have elevated levels of radon, even if other homes in the neighborhood do not.  Testing for radon is simple and inexpensive.   Once a radon problem has been identified, it can be fixed.

Radon is formed by the breakdown of natural uranium in rocks and soil.  In the open air, radon is so highly diluted that it poses no danger.  When it seeps into homes, it becomes trapped and can build to levels of concern.  As much as 55% of the radiation that people acquire over their lives comes from breathing in radon gas.  The risk of developing lung cancer from exposure to radon depends upon the concentration of radon and the length of time you are exposed.  Smokers increase this risk ten-fold.  Most radon-related health issues are caused from radon that circulates in the air. However, wells can also contain radon and should be tested. Radon in well water is a less common source of health-related issues.

Any home can have a radon problem.  Most radon enters homes through ground level openings such as pipes, drains, and foundation cracks.  Most homes contain radon in the air.  But the concentration of radon in the air varies greatly from insignificant to hazardous levels of contamination.  The only sure way of knowing if your home contains excessive levels of radon is to TEST for radon.

    Test for radon in the lowest level of your home containing a living area.  (You don’t need to test basements that are not used as a living area.) Most hardware and building supply stores sell testing kits.  Be sure the kit is EPA certified.  Short-term tests take air sample from 2-90 days.  A lab then analyzes the air sample and forwards the results to you.  There are also longer-term tests.  There are private companies that will conduct these types of radon tests.

              If your home contains radon, cover and seal basement drains, pipes, and cracks.  Because some entry points can be missed, retest immediately.  Even if no radon is detected, retest every few years.  (Entry points may open over time).  A contractor can install a venting pipe system that will draw radon from under the house and direct it back into the outside air.

It is possible to have elevated radon levels in your water even if the radon level in your indoor air is low. The only way to know for sure is to test for radon in both air and water. Radon in the water you drink can contribute to a very small increase in your risk of stomach cancer. However, this risk is almost insignificant compared to the risk of developing lung cancer from radon in your indoor air. How can radon get into my water? Radon gas can dissolve and build up in water from underground sources. Radon is not a health concern if your water comes from a lake, river or reservoir. Radon is released into the air before it reaches your home. If your water comes from a well, it may contain radon. When you use water, particularly when you aerate or heat it, radon in the water is released into the air. Any time you use a dishwasher, washing machine, or take a shower or bath, the radon in the water increases the level of radon in the air for a short period of time.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health (CT DPH) recommends testing for radon in your water if your home is served by well water. Repeat the test every 5 years. The CT DPH recommends testing your home’s indoor air first. The most significant source of radon gas in your home comes from soil. An elevated radon level in your indoor air is a greater health risk than the radon level in your water.

For written information on radon, call QVHD or request on line, info@qvhd.org  There is a National Radon Hotline at 1-800-767-7236. Radon literature is also available on the Internet at these sites: www.epa.gov/radon/pubs  or www.ct.gov/dph/radon