What You Need To Know About Radon

1 in 8 Vermont homes has unsafe levels of radon.

Radon is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America. Each year, radon claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans. In Vermont, one in eight homes is affected by unsafe levels of radon. While you can’t see, smell or taste radon, it can still be present at a dangerous level in your home. Exposure to radon is a preventable health risk and testing radon levels in your home can help prevent unnecessary exposure. If a high radon level is detected in your home, you can take steps to fix the problem to protect yourself and your family.

What is radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that has no color, odor or taste. It forms naturally from the decay of radioactive elements, such as uranium, which exists in different amounts in soil and rock throughout the world. Radon gas in the soil and rock can move into the air and into underground water and surface water.  Unless tested, there is no way of knowing if radon is present in your home.

Radon is present outdoors and indoors. It is also present at very low levels in outdoor air and in drinking water from rivers and lakes. It can be at higher levels in the air in houses and other buildings, as well as in water from underground sources, for example, well water. 

How are people exposed to radon?

For both adults and children, most exposure to radon comes from being indoors in homes, offices, schools, and other buildings. The levels of radon in homes and other buildings depend on the characteristics of the rock and soil in the area. As a result, radon levels vary greatly in different parts of the United States.

Radon gas given off by soil or rock can enter buildings through cracks in floors or walls; construction joints; or gaps in foundations around pipes, wires, or pumps. Radon levels are highest in the basement or crawl space because this is closest to the soil or rock that is the source of the radon. Therefore, people who spend much of their time in basements at home or at work have a greater risk of being exposed.

Small amounts of radon can also be released from the water supply into the air. As the radon moves from the water to air, it can be inhaled. Water that comes from deep, underground wells in rock may have higher levels of radon, whereas surface water from lakes or rivers usually has very low radon levels.

The health impacts of radon

Breathing air with radon increases a person’s risk of getting lung cancer. Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that damage lung tissue. It can lead to lung cancer over the course of a person’s lifetime. If you are a smoker and your home has high levels of radon, your risk of getting lung cancer is especially high. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 86% of radon-related lung-cancer deaths occur among current or former smokers.

For more information: Lung Cancer

Taking Action

Test your home.

EPA and the S. Surgeon General recommends that all homes in the U.S. be tested for radon. Testing is easy and inexpensive. For more information and to request a kit visit: http://www.healthvermont.gov/radon

Spread the word.

Remind your family, friends, neighbors, to check their homes for radon.

Buy a radon-resistant home.

If you are in the market of buying a new home, look for builders who use radon-resistant construction. For more information on building professionals and realtors visit: http://www.healthvermont.gov/interest-groups/building-professionals-realtors


Look at different resources, and learn about ways in not only preventing radon in your home but in your workplace, school, etc.


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