What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that comes from uranium in soil. It can build up to dangerous levels inside any home. Since you can't see or smell radon gas, the only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test for it. All homes should be tested because radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among people who do not smoke and the second leading cause of lung cancer among people who smoke
Radon in the Home
People spend as much as 90 percent of their time inside, meaning breathing in radon gas inside is a real health concern. Indoor radon usually gets inside a house or building from the soil or rock beneath it. Radon rises through the soil and gets trapped under the building. The trapped gases build up pressure under the building which then makes radon gas leak through floors and walls. Once inside, the radon can become concentrated in the enclosed space making it important to test for radon and reduce it if needed. It is also why new buildings should be built with radon-resistant features.
Low-Cost Radon Testing
- The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test for it.
- A limited number of radon test kits are available to New Mexico residents for free through the state Environment Department's Indoor Radon Outreach Program. See link in "Downloads and Resources" below.
- Inexpensive test kits are available from many radon specialty vendors, hardware stores and DIY (Do-It Yourself) stores. The cost of the kits usually includes the lab analysis to get your results.
- You can also call the EPA-supported hotline to purchase radon test kits by phone: 1-800-SOSRADON (1-800-767-7236) see link in "Downloads and Resources" below.
How to Reduce Radon Inside
A mitigation system is any system or steps designed to reduce radon concentrations inside. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that you reduce your home's indoor radon levels if your radon test result is 4 pCi/L or higher. The primary benefit is reducing the risk of developing lung cancer. There are several methods that a contractor can use to lower radon levels in your home. Some techniques prevent radon from entering your home while others reduce radon levels after it has entered. The EPA generally recommends methods that prevent the entry of radon. To learn about mitigation options, see link to New Mexico Indoor Radon Outreach Program in "Downloads and Resources" below.
Radon Resistant Features for New Houses
New homes can be built with radon-resistant features. Building new homes with simple and relatively inexpensive radon-resistant features can reduce the among of radon that comes inside your home. Using common materials and straightforward techniques, builders can construct new homes that are radon-resistant often for less than $500. See links to more information about new home construction in "Downloads and Resources" below.
Radon and Lung Cancer Risk
Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among people who do not smoke. It is also the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States for people who do smoke. Smoking and radon act synergistically (the effect greater than the sum of their separate effects) to cause cancer. The US EPA estimates that radon is the cause for 21,000 cancer deaths in the US annually1. The best ways to reduce your risk for radon-associated lung cancer are to:
- Test your home for radon.
- Install a mitigation system to reduce radon if your home has high levels of radon.
- Don't let anyone smoke inside your home.
- Get help for yourself and others in household to quit smoking altogether.