Radon is a radioactive gas that is invisible, odorless, and tasteless (which means that you are unlikely to detect it on your own). It is produced naturally through the radioactive decay of uranium, and while it is usually found in certain rocks and soil, it can also be found in well water. Radon is responsible for over 20,000 lung cancer deaths yearly, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the Surgeon General’s Office. It is, in fact, the second biggest cause of lung cancer (after smoking), and it costs the United States an annual $2 billion in health care, which is why radon testing is so important as a preventative measure.
Radon is an environmental health problem across the country, so radon testing everywhere from Vermont to California is a vital issue. One EPA survey estimates that about one-third of homes have higher levels of radon than they recommend. This is especially problematic for houses with children, as studies show they may be more vulnerable to radiation damage than adults. It penetrates common household items and materials like wood paneling, paint, and paper, which is one of the main ways people come into contact with the gas.
Most people are exposed to radon by inhaling or ingesting it. If you live somewhere where there is radon in the ground, groundwater, or building materials, you could be exposed that way, though radon in your well water is far more of a problem. You can be exposed at home, at work, or at school, but since you spend most of your time at home, that is where you are most likely to come into contact with it. Unfortunately, radon exposure doesn’t come with immediate symptoms; it usually takes years before you see any real problems. We strongly recommend radon testing about every 2 years, or after you make any sort of renovations or alterations. Additionally, if you start living in the basement, you should retest that area. Since testing for radon is easy and inexpensive, it should be a simple matter for most homeowners.