Unseen Threat: The Dangers of Radon in Your Home

Your home is a place of comfort, where you and your family should feel safe and secure. However, an unseen danger may be lurking, one that is often underestimated – radon gas.

Shashvat Sukhal, MD, FCCP
Shashvat Sukhal, MD, FCCP

“Radon is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas, can seep into your home from the ground, posing significant health risks, especially to your lungs,” says Riverside pulmonologist Shashvat Sukhal, MD, FCCP.

Understanding Radon
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that forms as a result of the decay of uranium present in soil, rock, and water. It can infiltrate homes through the ground and accumulate, especially in regions with high uranium concentrations. Radon can enter through cracks in the foundation, gaps around utility penetrations, and other entry points. Once inside, it may become trapped, steadily building up to hazardous levels over time.

The Dangers of Radon Exposure
Radon exposure is a substantial health concern, ranking as the second leading cause of lung cancer, trailing only behind smoking. When radon gas decays, it releases radioactive particles called radon daughters or radon progeny. These particles can become airborne and are inhaled into the lungs, where they emit radiation. This radiation can damage lung tissue and cause mutations in DNA, increasing the risk of lung cancer.

“Radon is a silent killer. It doesn’t produce immediate symptoms, and many people are unaware of its presence in their homes. However, long-term exposure can significantly increase the risk of lung cancer, especially among non-smokers,” says Dr. Sukhal.

Radon is unique in that it doesn’t cause immediate symptoms. You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it, which makes it all the more insidious. People often underestimate the danger because of its invisibility.

Testing and Mitigation
Given the severity of radon’s health risks, testing your home for radon is crucial. Testing can be easily performed using radon test kits available from hardware stores or by consulting a certified radon professional. There are two primary testing methods: short-term and long-term. Short-term tests provide a quick snapshot of radon levels, while long-term tests offer a more accurate assessment over several months.

If elevated radon levels are detected in your home, taking action is imperative. Radon mitigation systems, including sub-slab depressurization or ventilation systems, can effectively reduce radon concentrations to safe levels. These systems work by redirecting radon gas from your home to the outside, preventing it from accumulating indoors.

Radon could be present in any home, and its potential health risks should not be underestimated. Dr. Sukhal emphasizes the importance of testing and mitigation to safeguard your home and health from the dangers of radon exposure.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency and Office of Homeland Security website lists resources for finding a radon mitigation professional, along with a county by county average radon level map.

“Your home should be a place of safety and well-being, and addressing the threat of radon is a crucial step in ensuring that safety. By taking proactive measures, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from the hidden dangers of radon,” says Dr. Sukhal.