January is National Radon Awareness month.
Radon: it sounds like the name of a science fictional villain, but it’s actually a very real threat to your health. Find out what you can do to protect yourself and minimize radon in your home.
What is radon?
Radon is radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil. You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it.1
Where is radon found?
While levels of radon vary from region to region and even home to home, radon is exists everywhere. Radon leaks from soil and rock and can enter a house or other structure through cracks or holes in the building’s foundation. Radon gas can then get trapped in the structure, causing levels to rise.1. 2
Radon is also found in ground water that’s been exposed to rocks and soil that contain uranium. When contaminated water comes in contact with air (for example, when the shower is turned on), the radon gets released as a gas.2
According to the Florida Department of Health, “about 1 in 5 radon tests in Florida are found to be elevated,” and “elevated radon levels have been reported from all regions of the state.”1
What are the risks associated with radon exposure?
Because radon is radioactive, it can damage cells, particularly in the lungs. Long periods of radon exposure can cause cancer. Since most of us spend a lot of our lives in our homes, if your home has a radon problem, you are consistently exposed to the gas and are at greater risk of developing cancer.
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. and is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Fortunately, there are ways to test for radon and mitigate your exposure.1
How do you test for radon in your home?
Testing for radon is relatively quick and easy. You can purchase a testing kit at a hardware store or have a certified professional come to your home.1,2 Find out more about radon testing on the EPA website.
Be aware that radon levels can vary house to house. Just because your neighbor doesn’t have a radon problem doesn’t necessarily mean that your house is safe. The only way to determine radon levels is to have your home tested.1,2
How do I reduced exposure in my home?
If tests reveal that radon levels are higher than four picocuries per liter (4 pCi/L), steps should be taken to lower radon levels in your home. A state certified radon contractor can install a mitigation system that sucks radon gas out of the area under your home and releases it into the atmosphere through a pipe. This reduces the buildup of radon in your home.1,2
For more information about radon, see
- “Frequently Asked Questions,” Florida Department of Health, n.d., http://www.floridahealth.gov/environmental-health/radon/radon-faq.html
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, A Citizen’s Guide to Radon, EPA 402/k-12/002, 2012, http://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-05/documents/citizensguide.pdf
Photo Credits: Amy Stuart, UF/IFAS