There is increasing global awareness of the health risks posed by radon exposure. The World Health Organization estimates 84,000 deaths are caused by radon-induced lung cancer every year – with 21,000 of those lives being lost in the United States and 3,000 in Canada.
- Radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer in people who don’t smoke and the second leading cause of lung cancer worldwide.
- Approximately 1 in 15 U.S. homes and 1 in 14 Canadian homes have elevated radon levels, according to the EPA and Health Canada.
- Smokers have a 25% higher risk of lung cancer if they’ve been exposed to radon.
- Children have smaller lungs and faster breathing rates which means they can inhale more radon gas. A child’s risk of lung cancer resulting from radon exposure “may be almost twice as high as the risk to adults exposed to the same amount of radon,” according to the ATSDR division of the CDC.
Number one reason to test for radon
Radon is a radioactive gas that forms from the breakdown of uranium in soil, rocks, and water. It seeps into homes and buildings from the ground through cracks in the foundation, sump pumps, and holes around floor joints and pipes. When inhaled into the lungs, radon decays into radioactive alpha particles. These radioactive particles damage the DNA of cells that line the lungs. Over time, these damaged cells can develop into lung cancer.
A common question is whether you need to measure for radon based on where you live. Radon maps provide the reported prevalence of radon gas exposure in specific areas. These maps, such as the map published by the EPA, are available at both national and regional levels. However, many can be outdated and do not represent current radon levels in the areas. Radon maps can provide valuable tools for policymakers to create radon policies, but should not be used to determine the risk of having elevated radon levels in a particular home or building. The only way to fully understand your radon exposure risk is to test your home or workplace.
Simple ways to measure for radon
Radon tests can be performed with an easy do-it-yourself home test or by a certified radon measurement professional. The EPA has set the radon action level in the United States at 4 pCi/L and Health Canada has set the radon action level in Canada at 200 Bq/m3.
Radonova offers the following radon test kits for homeowners and radon professionals.
- QuickScreen is a 2-to-4-day charcoal radon screener for obtaining a quick snapshot of radon levels.
- The 10 to 90 day Rapidos alpha track detector provides detailed and accurate results in a relatively quick period.
- Radtrak³ is the most popular alpha track radon detector in the world. It is deployed for up to 365 days and is the most accurate option.
Radon measurement professionals and home inspectors may also benefit from the SPIRIT continuous radon monitor instrument.
What to do when radon levels are high
At the actionable limit of 4.0 pC/L in the U.S. and 200 Bq/m3 in Canada, ventilation in the house or building will need to be improved and/or a radon mitigation system will need to be installed. The EPA recommends a qualified radon service provider to perform this work in the United States. In Canada, a C-NRPP mitigation professional is recommended.