Radon Information

What is Radon?

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.

How do I know if Radon is in the home?

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.

Are older homes only susceptible to Radon?

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 directions carefully.
  • 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 renovations.

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.

For more information, read the Radon myths & facts sheet.