What are Radon Levels?

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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 December 2018
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Radon levels refer to the measurable amount of radon gas that is concentrated in indoor air at a specific location. The reason radon levels are measured at all is due to the fact that its presence can promote a variety of health risks, particularly lung cancer. In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approximately 21,000 deaths occur each year as a direct result of exposure to high radon levels in residential homes and commercial buildings.

Radon is an odorless and tasteless gas that occurs naturally in the environment as a byproduct of the radioactive decay of uranium and radium. While the gas primarily bonds to particles in soil and rock, it can escape into the air. Radon can also migrate into water systems, including residential wells. The decay of uranium and radium and subsequent release of radon occurs in all environments and climates, so there aren’t any particular “hot” radon zones to be found. However, regional soil chemistry and porosity do play a role in facilitating the transport of radon gas.

Radon gas most commonly enters a home or office building by escaping from nearby soil and passing through tiny cracks in and around the foundation or between plumbing and utility fittings. Some materials used in the construction of the building may also trap and introduce radon, although this is somewhat rare. Once inside, however, radon continues to build up in the environment.


Radon is usually measured in picoCuries per liter of air, which is expressed as “pCi/L.” However, some tests to detect radon gas return results in Working Levels (WL). According to the EPA, radon levels exceeding 4 pCi/L (or 0.016 WL) indicate that remedial action should be taken to reduce the risk of radon exposure to the building’s occupants. The same agency estimates that approximately one in 15 residential homes in the U.S. have radon levels that surpass this level.

Homeowners and real estate investors may self-test a location for radon by using a test kit, which can be purchased from almost any hardware store. Alternatively, a certified, professional radon tester may be contracted to perform this test. To obtain the name of an individual or company certified to test for radon levels, you should contact your local EPA regional office.

If remedial action becomes necessary to reduce the radon levels in your home or business, there are several actions that may be employed. The most common one is to improve ventilation by installing a soil suction radon reduction system. This simply involves a fan and a venting pipe running under the structure for the purpose of pulling radon gas out of the building and redirecting it outside. Of course, many newly constructed homes and other buildings are now equipped with radon-resistant features to help reduce the risk of excessive radon levels and the need for corrective renovations later on.



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