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What Is Radon?

“So what exactly is radon?  Is that bad for you?”

I was asked these questions recently and it struck me how little the general public seems to know about this insidious gas.  In my experience, there is a greater understanding of radon today then there was roughly 20 years ago.  However, I believe that there still needs to be a greater understanding of radon and the threats that can be associated with it.

First off, what is radon?  Radon is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas which is naturally occurring in the soil and is part of the radioactive decay chain of uranium.  It is naturally occurring and found in the ground at varying concentrations worldwide.  It gets indoors through cracks and openings, found especially in rooms at or below the ground surface.  For single family residences, this includes basements and rooms above crawl spaces and slab foundations.  

Now the bad part.  What does this mean for your health?   Radon is a known human carcinogen; it is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and the second leading cause of lung cancer overall.  This has been proven through epidemiological data and laboratory evidence.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Radon is responsible for roughly 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.  Roughly 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked.”.  (https://www.epa.gov/radon/health-risk-radon#riskcharts).  

The EPA and Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) Action Level for radon in a property is at or above 4.0 pCi/L (picocuries per liter of air) during a testing period lasting at least 48 hours.  How prevalent are elevated radon levels in the state of Illinois?  The University of Illinois reported that “Professional radon measurers have found over 41% of Illinois homes tested at or above the recommended action level of 4 picocuries per liter of air.” (http://web.extension.illinois.edu/state/newsdetail.cfm).

What is the best way to know if you have elevated radon levels in your home?  Testing is overwhelming the best way!  A radon professional will be able to provide the most accurate numbers for your home or commercial business.  If you have any concerns regarding radon, feel free to contact Indoor Science at 312-920-9393.  

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