What Is Radon Gas, and Should Your Home Be Tested?

In preparation for National Radon Action Month in January, homeowners may want to do a little research as to what radon is, exactly, and whether their home should be tested for unsafe levels of this gas. To help you get started, we’ve compiled a guide of the must-know information about radon you’ll need to help keep you and your family safe.

What Is Radon?

Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas that is odorless and colorless, so you won’t be able to see or smell it if it’s in your home. It  forms when radioactive metals like uranium, thorium, and radium break down in the soil or even in groundwater and thus release the gas. In this way, radon can escape into the air you breathe inside your home by seeping through any cracks in its walls or foundation.

According to the Surgeon General, exposure to radon gas, primarily through inhalation, is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States.

What Are the Health Risks?

While it’s impossible to prevent all exposure to radon because it naturally forms within rocks, soil, and groundwater, the associated health risks greatly increase when high levels of the gas become trapped inside your home. Moreover, smokers and children are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer later in life due to radon exposure. Thus, you can significantly reduce your risk of lung cancer by quitting smoking for good.

Some of the most common symptoms of radon exposure include:

  • A persistent cough or wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Bronchitis
  • Pneumonia

Should I Have My Home Tested for Radon?

If your home is older and has never been tested for radon, you may want to have it tested. According to the EPA, most counties in Pennsylvania, including Allegheny, Westmoreland, Armstrong, and Butler counties, have predicted indoor radon levels greater than 4 pCi/L, which is above the safe limit.

To test your home for radon, you can either purchase a test kit from a local hardware store or even online, or contact a radon mitigation company to test for you. If the test comes back with a reading higher than 4 pCi/L, you’ll need to have a radon mitigation system installed to lower the amount of radon in your home to an acceptable level.