Don't Forget About Radon

Authored by Derek Lantry
Radon Measurement Professional

If your work life has changed similar to mine, you are probably spending a lot more time at home working and less time in the office. COVID-19 has forced many to get creative and find new home workspaces. For me, it was clearing out the basement storage area and setting up shop amongst unfinished walls, spider webs, and a concrete floor.

With the average person spending about 1,811.16 hours per year at work (according to a 2015 Pew analysis of Labor Department data) and now mostly at home and 90% of this time spent indoors, it’s important to understand your indoor environment.  A variety of contaminants can affect the quality of your indoor air and the health of the people occupying that space. Radon is one of the more serious and often unknown sources of indoor air pollution. Radon is a dense, colorless, odorless noble gas that occurs naturally as the product of the radioactive decay of radium. Radon occurs naturally deep within the Earth’s crust and is found in nearly all soils across the US.  

How Radon Enters A House

Per EPA, the amount of radon that escapes from the soil and enters the house depends on the weather, soil porosity, soil moisture, and the suction within the house. Radon moves up through the ground to the indoor air through cracks in floors, walls, foundations, and even through well water. Radon gas in the air breaks down into microscopic radioactive elements (radon progeny) that can lodge in the lining of the lungs, where they can give off radiation. Long term exposure to this radiation can damage lung cells and eventually lead to lung cancer.  

According to the EPA, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and is estimated to cause 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the U.S. annually. Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend on how much radon is in your home, the amount of time you spend in your home, and whether you are smoker or have ever smoked.

Radon is in the air we breathe, indoors and outdoors, so it isn’t possible to avoid it completely. But you can test for it yourself or hire a professional too. There are two choices for radon testing, short term and long-term. Short-term radon sampling usually takes 2-4 days (sometimes up to 3 months) and is a low-cost option that will give you a snapshot of radon levels during the time of the test. For the long-term option you will need 3-6 months to complete the test, but it will give you a more accurate idea of the average annual radon level.

It’s recommended to test in the lowest level that can be occupied. If the lowest level is not finished but could be used as an occupiable space in the future (i.e. office, bedroom, rec room, or my new work space), test this area as well. Additional testing is also recommended at each unique foundation area and each area served by a different heating and cooling system.

If your radon test results are 4.0 pCi/L or higher the EPA recommends taking steps to lower radon levels. The World Health Organization (WHO) established an even lower radon action level of 2.7 pCi/L. For reference, the average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L indoors and about 0.4 pCi/L outdoors.

Typical Soil Suction Radon Reduction System

There are a few different options for lowering radon levels. These options can be as straightforward as sealing cracks in floors and walls to a more complicated remedy like having a mechanical radon mitigation system installed. A common and proven radon reduction method is the soil suction reduction system. Soil suction reduction systems essentially draw radon gas from the soil below the foundation to the exterior utilizing a pipe and specialized fan. This method requires technical knowledge and is best left to a qualified radon mitigation contractor. The cost of reducing radon in your home depends on how your home was built and the extent of the radon problem and the fix. If you are a DIYer and decide to go it alone, be sure you have the proper training and equipment, so you don’t make the issue worse.

After the mitigation fix is complete you should test again to be sure radon levels have been reduced.  

There is no “safe” level of radon and it’s not feasible to have zero radon exposure because it’s naturally occurring and is in the air we breathe. However, it's important to remember the lower the radon level, the lower the risk. So don’t forget about radon.

If you are looking for more radon information visit or contact your state radon program (


1.    2016_a_citizens_guide_to_radon.pdf
2.    the-epa-debunks-10-myths-about-radon/index.htm
5.    AARST Consortium on National Radon Standards, MAH 2019 Protocol for Conducting Measurements of Radon and Radon Decay Products in Homes