Radon FACTs and Links

 Radon is a radioactive, colorless, tasteless and odorless gas. Every home has some radon. The outside air has .4 pCi/L.

Radon is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless radioactive gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in the soil. When allowed to accumulate to high levels, it can be hazardous to long-term health.

Radon comes from the natural radioactive decay of radium and uranium found in the soil beneath the house. The amount of radon in the soil depends on complex soil chemistry that varies from one house to the next. One home may have a radon level of 2 pCi/L and the home next door could have a reading of 17 pCi/L. Radon levels in the soil range from a few hundred to several thousands of pCi/L. The amount of radon that escapes from the soil to enter the house depends on the weather, soil porosity, soil moisture, and the suction within the house. Radon is often found in areas which have granite, uranium, shale, and phosphate.

Radon can be in the air and well water of any house, and until tests are performed, there is no way to know if your radon levels exceed the acceptable limits.  To test air for radon, my company has state of the art air monitors that are calibrated for accuracy at regular intervals.  For water tests, we properly take water samples and submit them to a lab for testing.  If the testing reveals the radon levels exceed the allowed standards, my company is able to mitigate the radon in the air or water to safe levels.  

Every house is different.  Factors such as finished basements, crawl spaces and additions affect where an air system can be installed.  We take the time to locate the most aesthetic area to place the system while insuring the mitigation system is installed to code, will function properly, and maintain safe levels of radon in your home.  Water mitigation systems that are installed are based on the radon levels in the water.  From carbon systems that require annual maintenance, to more complex systems needed with higher radon levels in the water, my company has the experience and expertise to install whichever system is needed for your house.  

Whether you are already living in a house where you have established your life, or you are buying or selling a house, environmental testing is not usually your number one thought. On most real estate contracts though, buyers choose to have the house they have contracted to purchase, tested for radon in the air, and in the water if there is a well. People that have owned their house for years may have never had the house tested for radon.


Frequently Asked Questions

Why worry about radon?

Long-term exposure to high levels of radon can lead to the development of lung cancer.

The National Academy of Sciences, on February 18, 1998, released a summary of the findings of the sixth committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR VI) on the health risks associated with radon in indoor air. The committee concluded that, annually, between 15,400 and 21,800 lung cancer deaths in the United States can be attributed to breathing high indoor air radon.

Despite these predicted risks government agencies still find it difficult to convince people to test their homes.

The State of Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) still strongly urges all Connecticut residents to test their homes for radon and mitigate the home if elevated radon concentrations are confirmed.

How does radon enter my home?

Being a gas, radon easily can find its way out of rocks and soils, mix with other soil gases and enter homes and other buildings through cracks and openings in foundations.

Some radon can also enter homes through drinking water supplies. Radon can then enter the air after leaving the water during showering, cooking, and other water use activities.

Water from private wells may contain much higher levels of radon than public wells.

It is important to note that radon from soil gas is the primary source of radon in most homes. All homes and buildings contain some levels of radon. Radon concentrations can even be detected in outdoor air.

Radon Reduction Techniques

Various mitigation techniques are available to reduce indoor air radon concentrations. Homes with radon levels in excess of the 4.0 pCi/L (action level) but less than 7 pCi/L may be temporarily corrected by sealing cracks and openings in the foundation.

Please note: Sealing cracks is a temporary solution until the home can be mitigated by a qualified contractor. The Connecticut Department of Public Health does not recommend sealing of cracks as a permanent solution and should not be used as the sole radon reduction technique.

Most homes can be successfully mitigated with a technique known as sub-slab depressurization. This system utilizes four inch PVC piping and a special fan to collect and transport soil gases including radon from under the foundation and exhaust them above the roof eave.

There are a number of other mitigation techniques available for use in different home construction styles.

What are the proposed standards, guidelines for radon in air and water?

Both the EPA and the DPH use an “action level” of 4 pCi/L for radon in air.

This action level was selected in the 1980s to provide a goal that most contractors could achieve with existing mitigation systems. It does not completely protect one from the risk of developing lung cancer.

Compare this action level with the average levels found in Connecticut homes of 2.1 pCi/L in basements and 1.3 pCi/L in living areas.

The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), as amended in 1996, required the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for radon in public drinking water, but also provides for a higher alternative maximum contaminant level (AMCL) accompanied by a multimedia mitigation (MMM) program to address radon risks in indoor air.

The proposed Radon in Drinking Water Rule will be published in the Federal Register. Written public comments must be received at EPA by 60 days after the publication date.

For detailed information, EPA has posted the proposed rule on the worldwide web at: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/radon.html

In the absences of a radon MCL, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) recognized the need to establish a guideline that homeowners could use to make an informed decision whether to treat their private well water supply. The DPH recommends to homeowners served by a private well to consider treatment if their average annual (two or more samples in one year) radon in water is 5,000 pCi/L or greater.

Once EPA has promulgated a regulatory standard for radon in water the DPH will explore the feasibility of adopting the standards for the Connecticut Private Well Water Regulations.

Can the radon in my drinking water contribute to
my risk for developing cancer?

Different factors will affect your risk for developing lung cancer from radon.

These include: the levels of radon that you have been exposed to, the number of years that you have been exposed to high levels of radon, your smoking history, and the number and type of sources of radon in all of the buildings that you have lived and worked in.

In most homes and other buildings the primary lung cancer risk results from breathing air contaminated with soil gas containing radon.

In some homes that use private wells, radon in water can contribute to the radon exposure and resulting lung cancer risk. Occupants of these homes will be inhaling radon gas that leaves the water during showering and other water uses.

While it is easy to understand how inhaling radon from the air can expose lung tissue, occupants exposed to radon while drinking the water may also increase lung exposure. This may occur as a result of radon being absorbed in the stomach and carried to the lungs by the blood stream.

There is still controversy on risk associated with ingested radon and there is continuing research in this area.

How can I reduce radon in my drinking water?

Two systems are currently available for treating private well radon problems. (Public utilities will be required to monitor and treat their water once the radon MCL becomes law.)

The whole house granular-activated carbon (GAC) filter systems can be used to treat radon in water levels below 10,000 pCi/L.

Although these GAC systems are less expensive to install (prices range from $1,000 to 1,500) the carbon “bed” must be changed each year to avoid radioactive disposal concerns and a reduction in treatment ability.

An aeration system (prices range from $2,500 to 4,500) is needed for levels in excess of these levels. Both of these systems are under constant development and a number of variations of each system exist on the market.

Be certain that you are purchasing a system that will be able to effectively treat the highest level of radon that you can expect in your well.


Wash your Hands!