Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that is a product of the breakdown of Uranium in rocks and soil. Alpha particles given off during the continued breakdown of radon gas can damage cells in the lung when breathed in. Radon gas enters homes through cracks in foundations, cellar floors and crawl spaces. During the heating season a stack effect is created in houses as heat rises up the chimney, increasing the draw of radon gas into the home.
Radon Gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer following smoking. The National Academy of Science estimates that approximately 21,000 United States lung cancer deaths each year are related to radon exposure. Smokers are at even greater risk if they are exposed to elevated levels of radon.
In nature radon is present in outside air at an average level of 1.3 pCi/l (picocuries per liter). The action level set by EPA for radon inside the home is 4.0 pCi/l. This level was selected because almost any radon mitigation measure (work done to reduce radon levels) can achieve levels under 4.0 pCi/l. The EPA further states that there is no known “safe” level of radon. Within the Chatham Health District indoor radon levels have been seen as high as 400 pCi/l.
The only way to know what the radon level is in any home is to test. Testing is easy and inexpensive and can be used to determine if mitigation is needed or not. Most of the Chatham Health District is in areas identified by the EPA as having moderate to high radon potential. Chatham Health believes that radon is a largely preventable risk. For new construction, an effective an inexpensive method of handling radon is called Radon Resistant New Construction (RRNC). In applying this construction method, radon gas is vented passively from a site for a fraction of the cost of mitigation after the fact, often for only a few hundred dollars. Radon Resistant Sheet
You can purchase them through the American Lung Assoc http://www.lungusa.org or the Home Depot.