Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. You can’t see radon. And you can’t smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home. Radon is estimated to cause many thousands of deaths each year. That’s because when you breathe air containing radon, you can get lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high. A Citizen’s Guide to Radon and Radon Testing.
How does radon get into your home?
Radon is a radioactive gas. It comes from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside, where it can build up. Any home may have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well- sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. Radon from soil gas is the main cause of radon problems. Sometimes radon enters the home through well water (see page 8). In a small number of homes, the building materials can give off radon, too. However, building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves. Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in your state. Contact your state radon office (https://www.epa.gov/radon/findinformation-about-local-radon-zones-and-state-contact-information) for general information about radon in your area and about radon testing.
While radon problems may be more common in some areas, any home may have a problem. The only way to know about your home is to test. Radon can also be a problem in schools and workplaces. Ask your state radon office (www.epa.gov/radon/whereyoulive.html) about radon problems in schools, daycare and childcare facilities, and workplaces in your area (also visit https://www.epa.gov/radon).