Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas that is present in the natural environment. In outdoor settings, radon is effectively diluted, but when inside buildings, if not exhausted out, radon can accumulate in concentrations considered unhealthy.
Radon is produced as a direct chain of decay of radioactive uranium-238 found in rock in the soil or bedrock. In a process that takes many millions of years, uranium breaks down into a series of elements and eventually ends up as radioactive lead-210. Radon is the only gas in the entire decay chain. Being a gas, radon could be brought into the lungs by breathing where it is present. Interestingly, it is not radon gas that is responsible for the development of lung cancer, but the decay of radon, while in the lung, results in a series of solid radioactive particles (radium) that remain in the lung, continue to decay and are the reason for the cancer concern. As you can see, radon is the vehicle (gas) that allows entry into the lung.
Fortunately, because radon is a gas, methods have been developed to measure its air concentration, either directly, by measuring the gas itself, or indirectly, by measuring the amount of particles created by the breakdown of radon gas.
The most common radon test is a screening test using charcoal as a medium. The charcoal absorbs the radon gas and the level of radon is then measurable. If you are concerned about radon levels within your own home, you should start with a charcoal type screening test. These test kits are available free of charge for all residents in the health district.
If radon levels from the screening test are elevated, (at or above 4pci/l), then a retest should be considered. If the retest also shows elevated radon levels, then remediation should be considered.
The health district has information on radon, its mitigation, companies that perform testing and mitigation, and free screening kits. Please use the health district as your local source for radon information. For more radon information please visit the US Environmental Protection Agency website at www.epa.gov, or refer to the state of Connecticut's
Radon Program Information.
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