Interior Home Safety

Solved! What Is Radon Gas?

Radon exposure happens inside homes, schools, and other buildings. Radon gas becomes trapped indoors after it enters through cracks and holes in the foundation. When radon is found indoors, it can be regulated with verified and safe techniques.
Katie Flannery Avatar
radon in homes

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Q: As a potential home buyer, I’ve heard that I need to be cautious about radon gas. What is radon gas, and how can I be sure that my new home doesn’t have it?

A: You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it, but radon gas is a leading cause of lung cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. The presence of radon in homes need not be a deal-breaker, though. You can have your home tested, either by a professional or with a do-it-yourself home test kit. If radon levels are high, contact a certified radon service professional to address the issue. The EPA suggests addressing radon in a home if levels are at or above 148 Bq/m3 (4 pCi/L). Usually, radon problems are fixed using an underground ventilation system or by increasing the rate of air changes in a building.

Consult with a radon expert
Connect with trusted radon testing specialists in your area and compare multiple quotes for your project.

Radon is a natural, radioactive, odorless, inert, and colorless gas.

What Is Radon Gas: It Is Radioactive Gas

What is radon gas? Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. It’s odorless and colorless, but it may be a problem in a home. Radon is one of the top causes of lung cancer in the United States.

Radon is found in the air after it is released from the ground. It quickly dissipates outdoors to low concentrations and is generally not a risk.

Exposure to radon gas can cause lung cancer.

Indoors, radon particles can be inhaled, and they can potentially cause lung cancer. It is estimated that radon causes between 3 to 14 percent of all lung cancer, depending on average radon levels and smoking prevalence. Exposure to the combination of radon gas and cigarette smoke causes a higher risk of lung cancer than exposure to just one. Radon-related cancer deaths usually occur among smokers, although non-smokers make up more than 10 percent of radon-related cancer deaths.

Radon forms in the crust of the Earth, and it is found in the rocks that contain uranium.

The rocks and soil beneath homes and buildings contain traces of uranium, a solid, metal-like, radioactive element. Over time, uranium breaks down and transforms, and radon is one link in uranium’s decay chain. Radon leaves the soil and is released into the air. The gas escaping the ground can then be captured and contained in homes. Radon enters buildings through cracks, junctions, gaps, sumps, or drains. Small amounts of radon aren’t harmful, but large amounts can cause health problems.

Consult with a radon expert
Connect with trusted radon testing specialists in your area and compare multiple quotes for your project.

Radon is not dangerous outdoors but is highly toxic in a closed or indoor space.

Radon concentration within buildings is often much greater than outside, where there is more moving air and space for gases to disperse. Generally, radon levels are higher in basements, cellars, and living spaces in contact with the ground, but radon exposure can happen in any type of building. Radon is more likely to accumulate in homes that are well insulated and tightly sealed.

What Is Radon Gas: Radon Gas in Groundwater Sources

Traces of radon gas are present in groundwater sources such as springs, wells, or boreholes.

Radon exposure can happen through the ingestion of contaminated water, but the inhalation of radon is typically more harmful. Water sources like springs and wells normally have higher concentrations of radon than surface water from reservoirs, rivers, or lakes. If your home’s water supply comes from a groundwater source, it may have more radon than water from a treatment facility.

Radon Mitigation: How to Get Rid of Radon

There are no immediate symptoms that show if someone has been exposed to radon, and it typically takes years of exposure before any health issues arise. The EPA, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, and National Safety Council recommend testing your home for radon because it’s the only way to discover the presence of the gas. There are effective methods for preventing radon in new buildings and reducing radon in existing dwellings. Some ways of reducing radon levels in existing buildings include:

  • Increasing under-floor ventilation
  • Installing a radon sump system in the basement or under a solid floor
  • Sealing floors and walls
  • Improving the ventilation of the building

What is radon gas testing? Testing for radon is fairly inexpensive and easy to do, so don’t hesitate to get started. If you do find that there’s too much radon in your home, there are known remedies to make your home a safer place. It’s usually best to hire a professional, especially when dealing with a carcinogen. Many states require radon professionals to be certified and licensed in their field.