What is radon?
Radon is a colorless, odorless, flavorless, radioactive gas. It can accumulate in the lower levels of buildings.
How could I be exposed to radon?
Radon is generated from the radioactive decay of uranium in bedrock. In places with bedrock high in uranium, it can rise through the ground and move into buildings where it collects in basements, crawl spaces, and the ground floor level. People who breathe the air in these spaces breathe in the radon.
Radon can also be dissolved in groundwater. If a person has a private well, the water drawn from it may be high in radon. When showers, dishwashers, or clothes washers are run, radon can leave the water and move into indoors air.
What are the health effects of radon?
People who breathe air with elevated concentrations of radon over extended amounts of time are at greater risk for lung cancer, especially if they also smoke.
Is there a test to tell if I have been exposed to radon?
There is no test for radon in the body. The best way to tell if you are being exposed is to test the air in your home.
How can I protect myself from radon?
While high levels of radon are more common in some places than others, homes anywhere might have elevated radon. There is no way to be sure you are not being exposed without testing your home. It is easy to test a home for radon using a kit that can be purchased at many hardware stores. Virginia residents can order a radon test for $3 from the Virginia Department of Health’s Indoor Radon Program at https://www.vdhradon.org/. If a home has an elevated level of radon in it, a mitigation system can be installed that will pull radon out from under the home and exhaust it above the roofline.
People with a private well can have their well water tested for radon. If the levels are too high you can install a filter or aerator to remove the radon. See the Virginia Department of Health guidance on testing your private well.
Where can I get more information about radon?
- EPA’s Radon Resources for Individuals and Families
- ATSDR’s What is Radon
- Virginia Department of Health Indoor Radon Program