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Radon in the Home

Radon is an odorless, colorless, radioactive gas. It is also the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General’s office estimate radon is responsible for more than 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Since it is difficult to identify any immediate symptoms related to radon exposure, it may take years before health problems appear. So, whether in the workplace, in homes, or in schools, understanding radon is important. This includes learning how radon gets into buildings, its health effects, and ways to reduce its levels.

Having your home tested is the only effective way to determine whether you or your family is at risk of radon exposure. Steps you can take to reduce radon levels include

  • Purchasing a radon test kit
  • Testing your home or office
  • Sending the kit to appropriate sources to determine radon levels
  • Fixing your home if radon levels are high

How Radon Enters Your Home

Radon is a gas that occurs naturally from the breakdown—or the radioactive decay—of uranium. Rocks, soil, and in some cases groundwater can all contain uranium. Because radon comes from so many sources, people are easily exposed to it. Exposure can occur through breathing outdoor air, in buildings and homes, and by eating or drinking (ingestion). Radon gas can seep through cracks in buildings and expose people to the radiation, which can lead to severe health problems. The EPA lists the following ways that radon can get into buildings:

  • Cracks in solid floors and walls
  • Construction joints
  • Gaps in suspended floors
  • Gaps around service pipes
  • Cavities inside walls
  • The water supply

For information about radon levels, please see the EPA Radon Risks Chart.

Protection from Radon for You and Your Family

CDC worked with EPA to produce a booklet entitled A Citizen’s Guide to Radon: The Guide to Protecting Yourself and Family from Radon. Over the years, federal, state, and local agencies have used this citizen’s guide to alert and to inform people about residential radon risks. The publication includes information about the following:

How a Radon Test Kit Works

When selecting a radon test kit, EPA recommends you contact your state radon office for help in finding the radon kit that would work best for your home. You can measure radon levels in your home using long-term testing or short-term testing. With short-term testing, a test kit stays in the area in your home for fewer than 90 days, but more than 2 days. Long-term testing is when the kit remains in the area for more than 90 days. To find out more about radon test kits, contact the EPA Radon Hotlines and Information Resources or refer to the EPA web site on how to use a test kit.