Radon Testing

One common goal families have is to protect the health of their children. Families can protect everyone in their homes from lung cancer that is caused by radon gas. Radon is a radioactive gas that you can't see, taste, or smell. When you breathe in radon, the radioactive particles release bursts of energy that can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer.

Radon gas comes from the breakdown of uranium. Uranium is in most of the rock and soil around the world. Radon gas can enter the home through openings in the house around pipes and where floors and walls join. Another place radon enters is through cracks in the basement floor, slab floor or crawl space. The only way to know if your home has high levels of radon is to test for it. One home might have
high levels of radon while the next door neighbor could have low levels of radon. That is why every home needs to be tested for radon.

Most homes have some radon in the air. Radon Action Week, October 14-20, is a good time to test your home for radon gas. Or any time during the heating season is fine for testing your home for radon. You can buy short-term test or long-term test kits. It is better to use a short test of a few days if you have never tested your home for radon. Then you will quickly learn if your home has unsafe levels of radon.

Radon tests kits can be purchased for about $12 at some hardware stores or health departments. You can also call the IL Department of Nuclear Safety at 1-800-325-1245 for a list of where to order test kits by mail. The radon test kit is easy to use. Follow the package instructions about where to set the test kit in your home. Place the test kit about 20 inches off the floor in a room that you use often. When the test is complete, usually within a week, mail the test kit to a lab listed in the instructions. In 1-2 weeks, you will receive a report of the level of radon in your home.

If there are high levels of radon in your home, you can call a radon professional to seal up cracks in the floor and seal around pipes. Sometimes a special pipe will be put in the home to prevent radon gas from entering the home. Radon gas will be vented out the roof of the house. The entire project to reduce radon gas in your home may be around $800 to $1,200.

Homes need to be tested for radon every 2-3 years because the house and ground shift around. These changes could affect the amount of radon entering your home. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Families can easily protect themselves from cancer caused by radon gas. For more information about radon, contact your local University of Illinois Extension office.


Prepared by: Debra Bartman, Extension Educator, Consumer and Family Economics, University of Illinois Extension. Quad Cities Extension Center.

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