Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless and tasteless gas. It is formed as natural deposits of uranium throughout the Earth’s crust decay. As radon decay products are inhaled, they can alter the cells in the lungs. These alterations can increase the potential for getting lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking. An estimated 14,000 to 21,000 people die of radon-related lung cancer each year.
The amount of radon in a building is dependent upon several factors. These factors include the geology, a driving force, pathways into the building and the ventilation rate. As the concentration of uranium in the underlying soil increases, so does the strength of the radon.
Radon is transported to buildings more easily through permeable soils. Buildings can create pressure differentials that will draw in the soil gases. Radon can enter the building through many paths such as cracks in the foundation, utility penetrations, sumps and floor drains. The ventilation rate of the building affects the final radon concentration.
EPA has made the recommendation of no long-term radon exposures above 4 pico couries/liter (pCi/L). This action level was based on both health and economics. The only way to tell if a building has elevated levels of radon is to have it tested. Test kits are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. The Kentucky Radon Program http://www.chfs.ky.gov/dph/info/phps/radongas/