You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it. Radon comes from the radioactive breakdown of naturally occurring radium found in most soils. As a gas in the soil, it enters buildings through small openings in the foundation. Since the building can hold the radon similarly to smoke trapped under a glass, indoor radon concentrations can increase to many times that of outdoor levels. Another source of radon gas in homes is granite counter tops, which can be a source of both radon gas and gamma radiation, and drinking water.
Radon, a Class A carcinogen, is the second cause of lung cancer and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates. Radon is responsible for more than 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year (one every 25 minutes). In Florida, one in five homes tested has elevated radon levels above the action level of 4 pCi/L. Elevated radon levels have been found in all types of buildings, including manufactured homes, schools and high-rise condominiums.
Most can be purchased at home improvement stores, like Home Depot or Lowe’s, but you can also find them at Wal-Mart and Amazon. But you can also get them for free! The Florida Department of Health offers them in both Sarasota and Manatee counties. If you live in Sarasota County, click here. If you live in Manatee County, you can get your kit for free from the state.
Most home tests are of a passive type. They absorb radon gas and give you a reading on the level of radon in your home. The problem is the level of radon in your home can vary from season to season, so you may need to test multiple times per year. Otherwise your option is to buy a more expensive, active type of long-term test, which would likely require a trained professional to operate. You can learn more about finding test kits and hiring a professional here.
Radon is naturally occurring and we’re constantly exposed to it. If it’s at dangerous levels in your home, you’ll likely need to have better ventilation in your basement or below the slab of your home. You can learn more here. If you’re building a home, there are new techniques to help mitigate the danger. You can find those here.