What Radon Is and How It’s Affecting Your Home and Health

By Laura Gaskill, Houzz

If you’ve recently been in the market to buy or sell a home, you’ve probably heard something about radon. But what is it exactly? Is it really dangerous? And if you do find elevated radon levels in your home, what are you supposed to do about it? The fact is, radon is something we should all take seriously — and it’s not as difficult (or costly) as you might think to test for and reduce it in your home. Find the facts here.

Adrienne DeRosa, original photo on Houzz

What is radon?

Radon is an odorless, colorless, cancer-causing radioactive gas, produced by naturally decaying uranium, which is commonly found in rock and soil across the United States. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers.

How does it get into a home?

Radon is a gas that comes from the soil and rock beneath a home. It can seep in through cracks in the foundation, flooring, joists, wall cavities and gaps around service pipes. It can then become trapped in the home, accumulating in the air, gradually reaching unsafe levels. Some new homes are being built with features that help prevent radon from entering and becoming trapped in the home.

Architecture Workshop PC, original photo on Houzz

How common is it?

According to data from the EPA, 1 in 15 homes in the U.S. has elevated radon levels. The kind of home or its age doesn’t seem to matter — dangerous levels of radon have been found in all types of homes and buildings, both new and old, across the country.

What are unsafe levels of radon?

Outside air, on average, has 0.4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of radon. If the air inside a home is 4 pCi/L or higher, it is considered unsafe. That said, there is no safe level of radon, and the EPA recommends reducing levels as much as possible (even if your test shows normal results in your home), because any amount of radon poses a health risk.

Oak Hill Architects, original photo on Houzz