Radon: What Is It? Do I Need To Be Worried?

Radon: What Is It? Do I Need To Be Worried?

Have you ever been asked if you want a radon test done on your home?  Do you even know that that does? Radon is a natural occurring radioactive gas.  It is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas.

Radon happens with the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water.  Radon is everywhere, but when you are exposed to high levels of radon, that is when it gets harmful. It can get into your house no matter if your house is built on a crawl space, a basement, or a slab.  It can get into your home from cracks in the foundation. Your house may be more susceptible to higher levels of radon if you live in an area where the soil is dense in uranium, thorium, and radium. Radon can even come into the home from well water, the gas can get into the well, and then travel up into the house.  Any home can have high radon exposure. About one out of every fifteen homes end up having a high radon level.  


The Danger


It is bad to have a high radon level because after long term exposure to radon you can develop lung cancer.  Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer. There have been studies that people with lung cancer who do not smoke after testing their homes have shown high levels of radon. 


The Symptoms


It can take between five and twenty-five years to develop any symptoms from the radon. There are about twenty-one thousand cases per year of radon caused lung cancer deaths. Symptoms to look out for are persistent cough, coughing up blood, wheezing, shortness of breath, hoarseness, chest pain, and chronic or frequent cases of pneumonia or bronchitis.  If you experience any of these while in your house you will want to see a doctor, and get your house tested. 


Detection Methods


There are a couple of different ways to test your home for radon exposure.  If you are buying a new house the home inspectors may ask if you want a radon test done.  Usually for an additional fee you can have a short test done on the new home you are looking to purchase.  A short term test usually lasts between two to three days. There are different devices that can be used for a short term test.  An alpah-track detector, which look like a big capsule, a charcoal canister, a charcoal liquid scintillation device, or an electret ion chamber.  You can buy radon detection kits at any hardware store as well. You will place your device on the lowest level of the home where people are usually in.  If you have a basement that you use frequently you would place your device there, if you only have a main floor or a two story home, you would place the device on the main floor. While testing for radon it is important to keep your windows shut and your doors closed as much as possible.  You also will be discouraged to use fans that bring in air from the outside, and to not use fireplaces whether they are gas or wood burning. A well insulated home, or a well sealed home does not guarantee that you will have a low level of radon, it actually increases your