January is radon action month

January 3, 2017 | By | Reply More

The Washington State Department of Health urges Washingtonians to learn about the risk of radon exposure, a leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers.


Radon is the single largest source of radiation for almost everyone in Washington. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the second leading cause behind smoking. It is easy to decrease your risk from radon by testing for it and, if necessary, fixing your home.

What is radon?

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is invisible, odorless, and tasteless. It comes from the radioactive decay of radium, an element found in most rocks and soils. Radon can enter a building from the ground underneath it, and concentrate to tens or even hundreds of times the level in outdoor air.

How can radon affect me?

Radon can cause lung cancer. As radon radioactively decays, energy is released in the form of particles and photons. These can hit cells and damage or destroy them. Lung cancer can form when a cell is damaged and the cell does not repair itself correctly. The more radon you are exposed to, the greater the opportunity for cell damage. Although smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, the risk is highest when an individual smokes and is exposed to radon. Learn about tobacco-related disease.

How can I tell if I have radon in my house?

The only way to know if you have elevated levels of radon is to test. Easy-to-use, inexpensive test kits are available online, and from many home improvement and hardware stores. You can also hire a professional radon tester. A professional tester is often hired when radon detection is part of a real estate transaction. Find lists of professionals from the National Environmental Health Association and the National Radon Safety Board.

What can I do if I have elevated levels?

Three things that can help reduce radon levels in your house:

  1. Make it harder for radon to get in.
  2. Make it easier for radon to go somewhere other than your house.
  3. Increase air exchange with the outside, to remove the radon.

Make it harder for radon to get in by caulking and sealing up cracks in your basement or foundation, or by installing a good vapor barrier in your crawl space. The goal is to have a gas-tight barrier between the ground and the inside of your home.

Radon-Resistant New Construction (RRNC) techniques can be used, while a new house is being built, to keep radon outside of your home. A radon mitigation system can be installed in a home that has already been built to move radon from under your house to the outside.

Increasing the air exchange is easier in some places and at some times of year than others. If you have a crawl space, be sure to keep the vents free of obstructions, so the cross-ventilation can remove radon and other gases.

Mapping Radon Exposure in Washington

Radon maps and data

Maps and data showing radon risk in our state can be viewed on the Washington Tracking Network.

Where can I get more information?

Category: Environment, Poison, Radon

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