Radon belongs to the family of noble gases, which includes other odourless, colourless chemicals like helium. Unlike the others, though, radon is radioactive, making it a health hazard in high concentrations.
Radon is naturally occurring and traces of it can be found everywhere. When the uranium in soil, rock and water decays, radon is created. Homes constructed over bedrock and soil are exposed to radon as it seeps through cracks in the foundation walls and floors or spaces around the pipes and cables.
Radon does have a short lifetime but, in enclosed areas like basements, it accumulates. Thus, ventilation is extremely important in homes and buildings; modern builders make spaces too air-tight for this chemical to escape.
The Health Risks of Radon
In high concentrations and over long periods, studies have correlated radon with lung cancer. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, second only to smoking.
Because radon is a common indoor pollutant, it’s important to test for it regularly. Radon will always be present—the bigger question is how much of it. To measure radon’s concentration in your home, you have two options:
- Hire a radon measurement professional;
- Buy a DIY test kit.
If you choose to do it yourself, the test will take appropriately three months (not including lab analysis delays). Although the cheaper option, it might be faster just to bring in a professional with the proper equipment to immediately notify you of a problem.