Radioactive gas in the environment

Most people want to keep their homes safe from all dangers, seen and unseen. This includes excess levels of gases that could be poisonous, including propane, carbon monoxide, and radon. Most poisonous gases can be prevented, but radon must be continually treated if found in your home. You can find radon zones in US at the EPA website.

Sources of Radon

Radon, a dense, naturally-occurring radioactive gas formed through the decay of radioactive heavy metals, can accumulate in homes without adequate ventilation. Soil that contains radium naturally gives off radium, but naturally sourced building materials such as stone, granite, or brick may also contain radium. Mountainous and rocky areas are especially prone to radium build-up. Buildings sealed against radon with low-lying windows may allow outdoor radon inside if there is a nearby concentration.

Radon build-up is especially common during the winter. The combined effect of heat rising and the lack of ventilation from open windows creates suction that can pull radon up from the soil below the home. Once in the home, radon gathers in the lower levels of your home. In single-level homes, bedrooms can become saturated with radon gas.

Wells drilled in areas prone to radon saturation should also be tested, since water can carry radon gas into the house. Inhalation of radon while showering or cleaning can be especially dangerous, since the gas has not had time to dissipate into the environment.

This gas is not detectable by sight or smell, and requires special tests to detect. Most hardware stores and local environmental agencies sell or provide simple tests to detect the overall presence of radon, but exact levels will need to be measured precisely by a professional. Read more about radon.

Health Implications of Radon Build-Up

A large portion of homes are built in high-radon areas. Radon can build up in homes over time, and cause respiratory issues or even lung cancer. Radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and increases the risk for smokers.

Excessive exposure to radon shows through symptoms such as:

  • difficulty breathing
  • chest pains
  • wheezing
  • persistent cough
  • hoarseness
  • coughing up blood
  • recurring respiratory infections


lungs on x-ray machine


Respiratory issues may not be immediately blamed on radon gas. You could theoretically spend months or years and thousands of dollars for an environmental problem. Worse yet, prolonged radon exposure may cause lung cancer that is thought to be from another cause. Symptoms and illness can be treated but upon returning to a home filled with radon, they will return. The only complete treatment includes the identification and mitigation of radon in your home.

Thankfully treating radon may be as simple as installing a fan in your crawlspace or basement to remove radon gas as it rises. Radon is highly hazardous for your respiratory health, but monitoring the amount in your home can greatly reduce your risk of suffering from infections or worse. DIY or professional radon testing is the only way to ensure your family’s safety.


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