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As Homes Cozy Up For Winter, Radon Levels Can Build

With winter on the way, many people are making sure best practices are in place for a weather-tight season. The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) November 1st Soils Matter blog post explains why “home sweet home” is worth an inexpensive radon test for peace of mind through the winter months.

Nick Comerford, a professor in the soil and water science department at University of Florida, explains how radon forms. Its parent material, uranium, is found in most soil. As uranium decays, it eventually becomes radon gas. Depending on the level, radon gas can lead to health issues, including lung cancer. The risk increases if cigarette smoke and other particles are also present.

“Radon can move as a gas through the soil and enter your house through holes in the foundation.” Comerford says. “These holes might be found in places like the shower, toilet, other drains, etc. Any dust particles you have floating around your house collect radon – which you can then inhale.”

High radon levels in Iowa homes 'surprise' University of Iowa researchers

IOWA CITY, Iowa — You can't see it, you can't smell it, but it causes cancer. It's radon, and a recent study by the University of Iowa suggests it can be found at higher than recommended levels in many Iowa homes.

Radon is a naturally-occurring radioactive gas caused by the uranium in the Earth's crust. It can be found in concentrated levels, often in the lower levels of homes. According to state officials, it's the second leading cause of lung cancer in the nation.

The UI study was conducted in 2013 and published last month. Researchers tested more than 350 homes in the small northwest Iowa town of Akron.

Learn more here.

Test for radon with a DIY home kit

It's easy to pretend that radon doesn't exist because we can't see it, taste it or smell it. To many homeowners, it's "something that other people have to worry about," and they think, "How bad can it really be?"

Well, according to the Environmental Protection Agency Web site, radon exposure is second only to smoking for causing lung cancer. And because it's a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is the result of uranium decay found in nearly all soils, trapping it in confined spaces can be detrimental to the inhabitants.

The gas moves through the ground and into the air. Most often, radon penetrates a home through cracks in walls and solid floors and other holes in the foundation, such as gaps around service pipes. It doesn't matter if a house is old or new, drafty or sealed. The gas gets trapped, and if the levels are concentrated enough, it can pose a health risk.

Radon detected in two-thirds of Stateline homes

Radon detected in two-thirds of Stateline homes

GARDNERVILLE, Nev. — With the exception of a small sliver along Jacks Valley Road representing Genoa's ZIP Code, Douglas County's elevated radon results extend from Lake Tahoe to the Pine Nuts.

Radon, a radioactive gas that is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, is being detected in an average of 67.6 percent of Stateline homes tested. Zephyr Cover comes in a close second at 66.3 percent of homes tested.

Third place for the county is Gardnerville's 89460 ZIP code, which extends from the Gardnerville Ranchos to Sheridan Acres and Mottsville, one of the county's most populous regions, where 210 of 383 homes tested had elevated results.

Scientists make the point that any home in the county could have elevated levels of radon, even if a home next door doesn't.

Radon is formed by the decay of uranium in the soil. It is a tasteless, odorless gas that seeps into homes, where it can gather in still places and give off radioactive particles as it decays.