Radon is a Radioactive Gas
Radon is a radioactive element that is part of the radioactive decay chain of naturally occurring uranium in soil. You can’t see radon. You can’t smell radon and you can’t taste radon. Unlike carbon monoxide and many other home pollutants, radon's adverse health effect, lung cancer, is usually not produced immediately. Thus you may be exposed to radon for many years without ever suspecting its presence in your home.
The USEPA action level for radon is 4.0 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). The risk of developing lung cancer at 4.0 pCi/L is estimated at about 7 lung cancer deaths per 1000 persons. That is why USEPA and IEMA recommends reducing your radon level if the concentration is 4.0 pCi/L or more. Lung cancer in humans arising from radon exposure is recognized by the following health and environmental organizations:
- American Medical Association
- U.S. Surgeon General
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- U.S. Public Health Service
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
- Center for Disease Control
- National Academy of Science
- National Cancer Institute
- World Health Organization
You Should Test for Radon
While scientists can estimate the approximate lung cancer deaths per 1000 people, no single individual's risk can be estimated. Testing is relatively inexpensive, easy and is the only way to know whether you are at risk.
If you would like to perform the tests yourself, read the Guidelines for Radon Measurements in the Home before placing the detectors. This guide tells you the steps for home radon testing, things to remember when testing and where to place, and not to place, detectors.
If you would rather that a trained professional perform your test, the radon program has the names of qualified, licensed Measurement Professionals in, or near, your area. IEMA recommends professional testing in real estate transactions.
If you are involved in a real estate transaction, read the Radon Testing Guidelines for Real Estate Transactions. Radon testing in real estate transactions, which involve multiple parties and financial interests, is unique and specific testing protocols are required.
Controlling Radon Exposure
Radon reduction techniques are used to stop radon entry and reduce indoor radon concentrations. IEMA recommends hiring a licensed Mitigation Professional
to reduce your indoor radon concentrations, as you would hire a licensed plumber, HVAC or other specialist
Trained mitigators using specialized equipment can discover where radon is entering and advise homeowners on the best way to reduce radon concentrations. The most common technique used by radon reduction firms is called "subslab depressurization" (SSD) and does not require major renovations. Post-mitigation testing must be performed to determine the effectiveness of the mitigation system.
The cost of an active mitigation system is typically between $800 to $1200 for installation, and the energy cost for running the fan will average around $100 per year.
For individuals and companies building new homes IEMA recommends installation of Passive Radon Reduction Systems during construction; homeowner testing after taking residence; and mitigation, as indicated by the test results. The International Code Council outlined radon control methods in their One and Two Family Dwelling Code since 1995. Some Illinois towns concerned about residential radon concentrations have adopted the International Code, making passive radon resistant new construction mandatory for new single-family dwellings in their areas.