Radon on the Map

Aug 27, 2010

Radon is a radioactive soil gas that is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers according to the EPA.  The US Surgeon General issued a Health Advisory a few years ago to warn the public about radon’s health risks.  To read more about the health effects of radon, you can visit the EPA’s website.  In this blog post I want to discuss how radon levels vary geographically.

Radon is a decay product of radium (which, in turn, is a decay product of uranium).  Because uranium is found in the soil at different levels throughout the world, radon concentrations vary quite widely.  A few maps are publicly available that display the average radon levels throughout the US.  The problem with these maps is that the average concentrations are for an entire county or region.  Your home, school or office may be in a neighborhood with levels significantly higher or lower than the region’s average.

Nevertheless, I think that radon maps can be a useful tool to understand the geographic trends.  Here are the three radon maps in the US that I like to reference:

Radon levels don’t just vary region to region or even neighborhood to neighborhood.  Levels can even vary building to building!  In other words, a home might have low levels of radon but the neighbors have high levels.  Because radon is colorless and odorless, you must test a space to know what the radon concentrations are.  I recommend doing a radon test before you move into a new dwelling, even if you live in a low radon area.

So if you should test no matter what, is there much benefit to looking at radon maps?  Give me your feedback by commenting below.