Radon FAQs

Updated: 1/27/2015 11:53:24 AM


1. What is radon?
Radon is a radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. Radon is a naturally occurring gas that seeps into buildings from the surrounding soil. You can't see, taste, or smell radon. The only way to discover if high levels of radon are present is through testing.

2. Where is radon found?
High levels have been found in a number of homes in southeastern Wisconsin.

3. How does radon get into my home?
Radon enters homes most commonly through cracks in foundations, openings around pumps and drains, construction joints, and cracks in walls. Radon is most concentrated in the lowest level of the home. Radon may also be present in well water and can be released into the air in your home when water is used for showering and other household uses. Radon entering homes through water may be a small risk compared to radon entering through the soil.

4. Is there a safe level?
Whatever level it's a risk, but the lower the radon the less the risk. 4 and above is action level.

5. What health effects is radon linked to?
Radon is linked only to lung cancer. Indoor radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Radon causes an estimated 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. A combination of smoking and radon can increase the likelihood of lung cancer.

6. How does radon cause lung cancer?
Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe. As these particles break down, they release small bursts of energy. This can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. An individual's risk of getting lung cancer from radon depends mostly on 3 factors: level of radon, the duration of exposure, and their smoking habits.

7. Is radon a concern in some areas as opposed to others; and if so does my area have a radon problem?
Elevated indoor radon levels have been found in all areas of Wisconsin. Houses next door to each other can have very different levels. The only way to know if your house has an elevated radon level is to test. EPA has suggested that all residences below the third floor be tested for radon.

8. How do I test my house?
Testing for radon is simple and inexpensive. There are many "do-it-yourself" kits you can buy at retail outlets or through the mail. EPA recommends placing the radon kit in the lowest lived-in level of the home. Follow the instructions that come with the test kit. After the test is complete, you send it to the manufacturer for analysis. You may also hire a company to test your home for you. Make sure the company certified. The SE WI Radon Info. Center can provide a list.

9. Where can I buy a test kit?
Test kits are generally available from hardware stores, supermarkets, and other retail outlets, and also Southeastern Wisconsin Radon Information Center. In Wisconsin you can call 888 LOW RADON.

10. Are there different types of test kits? Which should I use?
There are two basic types of kits: short term kits (2 to 90 days) and long term kits (90 days to 1 year), the most common type of short term kit is the charcoal canister and the most common type of long term kit is the alpha track detector. The long term radon test kits take into consideration seasonal variation, which can be substantial and therefore provide a better measure of annual average radon exposures than short term tests. If a short term test result is greater than 4pCi/L, EPA recommends following up with a long-term, or a second short-term test, to confirm the result. If your initial reading is over 10pCi/L only a short-term test should be used for follow-up.