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Radon 101 for the Homeowner | Part 1

Radon is a significant health risk. It’s enough of a risk that we’re actually going to take two blog posts to cover the issues relating to radon toxicity in the home. Today, we’ll have a look at the basics—what it is, how it can get into a home environment, and why it can be dangerous. Next time, we’ll cover potentially lifesaving information on radon testing.

What Is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It’s also chemically inert. Unless you test for it, there is no way to know whether radon is present in your home—but high concentrations have been found in every state in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Citizens Guide to Radon.

How Does Radon Get Into Your Home?

Radon occurs naturally in the environment through chemical processes in the decay of radioactive materials like uranium, which is found in some soil and rock strata worldwide. Radon gas present in the soil or rock can leak into both water and air, becoming concentrated in local water sources and the enclosed spaces inside buildings.

Why Is Radon a Concern?

Radon can further break down into elements called radon “progeny” or “daughters.” These progeny are particles, not gas like the parent element. They can attach to dust and other airborne particulates and be breathed into the lungs, where they lodge and continue their radioactive decay. That’s why radon is a leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S., second only to smoking—according to the American Cancer Society’s online Radon Fact Sheet.

Radon and its daughter elements also give off alpha particles, which are highly radioactive and can damage human DNA over time—not just in the lungs. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Toxicology Program, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer all identify radon as a known carcinogen that can cause cancer in humans.

Keep Your Loved Ones Safe.

Radon is a known carcinogenic substance that is impossible to detect without chemical testing. It’s prevalent in indoor environments throughout the country. Even if your neighbors know their levels of radon are within safe levels, yours may not be—it depends on the composition of soil and underground substrates beneath your house and in the surrounding area.

Next time, we’ll cover radon testing to help you keep the ones you love safe from this toxic substance.