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Radon FAQs

About Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring, hazardous gas that is present in many homes around the country. It escapes from when uranium in the soil decomposes, creating a gas that escapes through soil and water. The EPA suggests that a level of 4.0 pCi/L or higher is dangerous and radon should be mitigated to avoid impact to your health. 

We are dedicated to helping people understand the dangers of radon and how to get rid of it in your home or commercial property.

From radon testing, to radon mitigation, to the effects of radon on the human body, we have compiled a detailed list of questions and answers to give you as much information as possible. Education and awareness are key in fighting the battle against radon health issues across the United States. If you have questions that are not answered here, please contact state health and government agencies who are authoritative resources on radon and the impacts to health.

Questions about Radon

What is radon?

Radon is a dense, radioactive chemical element that exists mainly as a noble gas with the symbol Rn on the periodic table and atomic number 86. It is invisible, colorless, and odorless. Radon gas often accumulates in low-lying areas, such as basements, and exists in many homes and some workplaces and exists undetected by the building’s occupants. Radon gas has been identified as a carcinogen meaning it has been linked as a cause of lung cancer across the country.

Where does radon gas come from?

Radon gas is a byproduct of the natural decay of uranium and thenradium. These elements can be found naturally in certain types of rock, including granite, igneous, and limestone, as well as in soil and water. Hot springs can also contain high concentrations of radon.

Radon poses the most serious threat to humans when it is inhaled. Radon gas can make its way into a home by seeping through cracks in the foundation. Any pathway that air can take is a potential path for radon, even diffusing straight through solid concrete.

Radon can also be found in water. Although humans are susceptible to ingesting radon by drinking contaminated water, the risk of ingesting significant traces is fairly small. It is also possible to consume radon by eating agricultural products that are grown in radon-contaminated soils, but the risk of eating foods that contain high concentrations of radon is also low.

How do I know if there is radon gas in my home?

Without testing, it is almost impossible to detect radon gas because the properties of radon are identifiable by human senses. However, home radon test kits are commonly available at hardware and home improvement stores or online. The self-test kits utilize a device that is placed in the lowest level of the home. After several days, the kit absorbs radon and the kit is sent to a lab to be analyzed. This type of kit is inexpensive and easy to acquire. Long-term radon kits are also available, that collect samples for over a year are also available. Long-term kits are more expensive, but they are also more accurate.

Why is radon dangerous?

Radon is a cancerous radioactive gas. It is colorless, odorless and tasteless. Radon is relieved when uranium decomposes in soil and emits toxins into the home. The toxins found in uranium are made up of particles from the soil, and when breathed, get trapped in the lungs. When these participles build up over time, lung issues can occur. If someone is exposed to this gas and the toxins from radon for a long period of time, the buildup can become cancerous.

What level of radon is safe?

Technically, no level of radon gas is safe. The more correct question is what level of radon gas is acceptable according to government health organizations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), any level of radon gas that is at or below 2.7 pCi/L is safe. Consequently, the EPA suggests that a level of 4.0 pCi/L or higher is dangerous and radon should be mitigated. A homeowner decides whether a mitigation system should be installed, however, not installing a radon mitigation system at levels of 4.0 pCi/L or higher does put everyone in the home at risk.

What is radon exposure?

Radon exposure when people breathe air contaminated with radon over a long period of time. The exposure can cause lasting health problems such as lung cancer. Radon exposure can be deadly if not properly managed. Many people are unaware they are exposed unless they test for it.

What are the signs of radon exposure?

Symptoms of radon exposure are similar to those of lung cancer: a persistent cough that doesn’t get better, difficulty breathing, coughing up blood, chest pains, wheezing, hoarseness, etc. Many people dismiss these symptoms as common respiratory cold, but often the cause is something worse. Consult a healthcare professional if these symptoms occur.

If radon gas is found in my home should I look into radon mitigation? 

If your home contains unsafe levels of radon gas, you should have specialists from SWAT Environmental begin radon mitigation as soon as possible. The most effective radon mitigation method is the installation of specialized equipment to extract the gas in your house. SWAT Environmental’s experts will be able to determine the optimal radon mitigation setup for your home.

Is radon odorless?

Yes, radon gas is odorless. It is also tasteless and colorless, which makes the gas relatively invisible to the senses. These characteristics are what allows radon gas to go undetected by homeowners. Testing is the only way to determine if unhealthy levels of radon are present. There are short-term and long-term tests, however short-term tests should be used before mitigation occurs.

How to detect radon gas?

The main and most effective way to detect radon gas is to test for it. You can to acquire a test kit at your local hardware store. Test kits should be placed in the lowest, most populated room in the home to have the most accurate results.

Radon Testing FAQs

Learn more about radon testing.

What is radon testing?

Radon testing is the recording of the actual level of radon gas is present inside an occupied dwelling or space and is typically measured in Picocuries per liter also known as pCi/L. There are several types of radon test kits and radon monitors available. Some kits are designed for testing by days or by months. Radon testing is a necessary consideration in real estate transactions and is priority in environmental communities.

How do you test for radon?

Homeowners can purchase a test kit from their local hardware store. Short-term test kits are test kits homeowners should use for testing in days and usually as the first test that is being conducted. Place the test kit in the lowest level of the home that people frequently use and wait a couple days. Follow the instructions on the test kit to submit the test to a lab. Depending on the results, the next step would be to mitigate the radon in the home.

Where can I get a radon test kit?

Homeowners can purchase a test kit from a hardware or home improvement store or online.

Radon Mitigation FAQs

Learn more about our Radon Mitigation Systems.

What is radon mitigation?

Radon mitigation is the act of reducing the levels of radon gas found in the home or building. Mitigation systems utilize fans to pull the dangerous gas from the building’s foundation and disperse it outside the home or workplace making the air safe to breathe. Certified technicians will come to the house and install the fans, piping and tools to proactively measure and monitor radon in the home. SWAT Environmental has a team of local, professionally, trained radon gas mitigation technicians that will install your system.

How to fix radon?

To address a radon issue, you need to install a radon mitigation system. These systems reduce radon by suctioning the air from under the home’s foundation and releasing it above the roof of the house. When the radon gas is released above the house, it is diluted in the atmosphere. Through the mitigation process cracks in the foundation are sealed to prevent radon gas from creeping into the home and further contaminating the air we breathe.

How to reduce radon?

Certified technicians install a system with fans that pull air contaminated with radon gas from under a building’s foundation. Fans run 24/7 keeping the radon at safe levels. After the fan has been installed, regularly test for radon gas presence in the home. Your SWAT Environmental system will have indicators so ensure the system is operating without error, but because the gas is colorless, tasteless, and odorless, testing will be the only way to know for sure if the mitigation fan is working.

What is radon inspection?

Radon inspection occurs via a test to determine how much radon is present in the home or the building. The levels will also determine what the next steps a homeowner should take in order to decrease the threat of radon gas. According to the World Health Organization, homeowners with a level of 2.7pCi/L should consider mitigation. Similarly, the EPA suggests that homes at the level of 4.0 pCi/L or higher should mitigate to stay safe.

The Dangerous Effects of Radon

Does radon cause cancer?

Yes. Exposure to radon gas can cause lung cancer. The particles of radon-infused gas that are breathed build up in the lungs. Overtime, the buildup creates cancerous cells that may lead to lung cancer. Lung cancer is the only cancer proven to be caused by the inhalation of radon gas.

Some of the symptoms to look for is a persistent cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath. If anyone in the home is experiencing similar symptoms, take them seriously and see a healthcare professional.

Is radon a form of radiation?

Yes, radon is radiation. Radon is the breakdown of radioactive material, like uranium, in the soil. Radon is a different forms of radiation, since it is generally found in the soil. This radiation then transfers into the home, which is extremely dangerous to breathe. Over time the radon gas and the radioactive particles it carries can buildup in the lungs. This buildup is likely to cause lung cancer if the radon gas isn’t tested and mitigated quickly.

Is radon radioactive?

Radon is radioactive. Radon itself is the breakdown of radioactive particles, like uranium. The radioactivity is formed from the soil and the rocks in which it is found. At times, radon may be found in well water. Radon’s extended half-life is able to spend copious amounts of time migrating through cracks in the building’s foundation, and then in the air, where it transforms into more harmful, radioactive metals. This is what makes radon gas so dangerous.

The History of Radon and Its Causes

When was radon discovered?

A German chemist named Friedrich Ernst Dorn was studying radium’s decay chain and discovered radon in 1900. The symbol for radon is Rn and it’s atomic number is 86. It was originally named Niton, after the Latin word for shining: nitens. However, it was changed in 1923 to radon, signifying the radioactivity from which radon originates.

What causes radon gas?

The natural breakdown of radioactive material, such as uranium, in the soil causes radon gas. The gas can seep through cracks in pavement and foundations in homes and buildings, trapping the gas inside. There is radon gas everywhere, but the levels will vary from state to state and street to street. The soil is inconsistent and therefore, the occurrence of radon varies. One house on a street might have a high level and a neighbor across the street might be safe with a low level.

Where is radon found in nature?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of radioactive material, such as uranium. It is usually found in rocks and soil but sometimes can be found in well water.

What type of environments are likely to contain radon?

In general, underground environments have the greatest probability for high concentrations of radon gas. Places such as tunnels and mines pose the greatest risk for radon accumulation. As dangerous as basement radon levels can be, they are usually only a fraction of the strength of radon in underground mines. This is why miners and other underground workers are warned of the potentially severe health risks of the job.

Where is radon found?

Radon is found in the soil. As elements in the soil decompose, a radioactive material, radon gas, is left behind. Radon gas is a threat in many homes and buildings and testing should occur to reduce the risk of serious health issues. Radon gas can creep in through cracks in the foundation of your home or in pavements to contaminate the air that you breathe. Since radon levels vary, one house might have extremely high levels, and a neighbor might have low levels. It is a good idea for all homeowners to test their home.