People tend to spend more time indoors during the winter than during the rest of the year. We want to stay safe from the frigid air and howling winds, after all. But is the air in your home actually safe? January is National Radon Action Month. Take some time to learn about radon, how radon can affect your health, and make sure that your home is safe from radon.
What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil. When radioactive elements such as uranium, radium, and thorium break down and decay they release radon. Radon that’s released into the air outside diffuses and is relatively harmless. When radon accumulates in homes, however it can be dangerous.
Radon gas can seep through gaps and cracks in flooring and foundation, and build up in homes and buildings. If enough radon accumulates in your home, it can have negative effects on your health.
What are the effects of radon?
Breathing in radioactive radon gas damages your lungs and increases the risk of lung cancer. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer deaths among non-smokers. Radon exposure is responsible for roughly 21,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.
How can you detect radon?
You can’t see, smell, or taste radon gas. The only way to tell if your home has unsafe levels of radon is through radon testing. The amount of radon in a home can vary depending on factors such as precipitation and changes in barometric pressure. In other words, radon levels in your home can be different from day to day.
Short term radon tests typically measure levels in your home for periods less than 90 days, and long term tests measure radon levels for periods over 90 days. Long term tests provide a better picture of radon exposure in your home. The EPA recommends taking action with radon levels over 4 picocuries per liter.
According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1 out of every 15 U.S. homes have radon levels that should be reduced. You can buy home test kits at home improvement stores or online. You can also hire professionals to test radon levels in your home. Here’s more information on radon testing.