Radon, Should You Worry?
Radon is a tasteless, odorless, radioactive gas that results from the breakdown of uranium. Uranium is present in most soil and rock around the world. It is frequently concentrated in areas with significant amounts of granite, shale, phosphate and pitchblende present.
Exposure to radon can increase your chances of getting lung cancer. Scientists are more certain about radon risks than risks from most other cancer-causing substances. Smoking combined with radon exposure is an especially dangerous health risk. Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can be drawn into your lungs when you breathe. These particles release bursts of energy that can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer.
As a gas, radon can leak into your house through the basement or crawl space. The only way to know if your home has significant concentrations of radon is to have the house tested. You may be able to hire a radon monitoring service. You can also monitor radon levels yourself by using an alpha track detector. Such detectors cost about $20-$25 per kit. Alpha track detector tests can take at least a month – and up to a year for more accurate readings – to determine average radon concentration. Because these long-term tests are exposed to radon for a longer period, they are generally considered more representative than the short-term carbon detector tests. These can be conducted in two to seven days and costs approximately $10-$20 per kit.
Resource: Healthy Indoor Air for America’s Homes, EPA 402-K-98-002, June 2003.