What is Radon?

Radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer, is a radioactive gas that comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil and rock and gets into the air you breathe. It moves through the ground and into your home through cracks and other openings in the foundation where it can accumulate to unsafe levels. Because it is odorless, colorless, and tasteless, testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon in your home. There are simple ways to reduce radon levels in your home. Radon reduction systems work and they are not too costly to install if needed. Some radon reduction systems can reduce levels in your home by up to 99%. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.

Testing Conditions:

For a short-term test, windows and outside doors need to be kept closed as much as possible during the test. Heating and air-conditioning system fans that re-circulate air may be operated.  Do not operate fans or other machines which bring in air from outside.  Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating only for short periods of time may run during the test.  If you are doing a short-term test lasting just 2 or 3 days, be sure to close your windows and outside doors at least 12 hours beforebeginning the test, too. You should not conduct short-term tests lasting just 2 or 3 days during unusually severe storms or periods of unusually high winds.  The test kit is placed in the lowest lived-in level of the home (for example, the basement if it is frequently used or could be converted to a playroom or office, otherwise the first floor). It should be put in a room that is used regularly (like a living room, playroom, den or bedroom) but not your kitchen or bathroom. The kits are placed at least 20 inches above the floor in a location where they won’t be disturbed – away from drafts, high heat, high humidity, and exterior walls. Once the test is finished, the kits are sent it to a lab for analysis. The time it takes to receive your test results typically depends on the type of testing device used.

Pennsylvania’s Radon Problem

The Pennsylvania Departmanet of Environmental Protection (PADEP) has stated that Pennsylvania has a serious radon problem. There are an estimated 860-3,800 lung cancer deaths per year in Pennsylvania due to residential radon exposure. An estimated 40% of Pennsylvania homes have radon levels above EPA’s action guideline of 4 picoCuries per liter of air ( pCi/l).



• Cracks in solid floors
• Construction joints
• Cracks in walls
• Gaps in suspended floors
• Gaps around service pipes
• Cavities inside walls
• The water supply



Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in Pennsylvania. While radon problems may be more common in some areas, any home may have a problem. The only way to know about your home is to test.

Further Information and Acknowledgements

The above was a brief overview of radon information taken from the document “A Citizen’s Guide to Radon” EPA document number 402-K-02-006, Revised September 2005. Further in-depth radon information and publications are available at the PADEP Radon Home Page , the EPA Radon Home Page or by calling 1 (800) 23-RADON for a free information packet.