Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the United States. It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home can trap radon inside. Sometimes radon enters the home through well water.

Radon gas can enter the home through well water. It can be released into the air you breathe when water is used for showering and other household uses. Research suggests that swallowing water with high radon levels may pose risks, too, although risks from swallowing water containing radon are believed to be much lower than those from breathing air containing radon. While radon in water is not a problem in homes served by most public water supplies, radon has been found in well water.

Any home can have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. In fact, you and your family are most likely to get your greatest radiation exposure at home. That is where you spend most of your time.

Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in your state.

Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. EPA recommends that you take action to reduce your home's indoor radon levels if your radon test result is 4 % or higher.

It is preferable to correct a radon problem before placing your home on the market because then you have more time to address a radon problem. If elevated levels are found during the real estate transaction, the buyer and seller should discuss the timing and costs of the radon reduction, as with any other aspect of the home purchase and sale.

High radon levels can be reduced. The cost of making repairs to reduce radon depends on how your home was built and other factors. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs, like painting or having a new hot water heater installed. The average cost for a contractor to lower radon levels in a home is about $1,200, although this can range from $500 to about $2,500.

A variety of methods can be used to reduce radon in homes. Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation is a basic part of most approaches to radon reduction. EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to reduce radon because, by itself, sealing has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently. In most cases, systems with pipes and fans ("sub-slab depressurization" systems) are used to reduce radon and do not require major changes to your home. These systems prevent radon gas from entering the home from below the concrete floor and the foundation. Similar systems can also be installed in homes with crawl spaces. Radon reduction contractors may use other methods that may also work in your home. The right system depends on the design of your home and other factors. As with any other household appliance, there would be costs associated with the operation of the radon reduction system.

Ways to reduce radon are discussed in EPA's "Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction." Call your state radon office to get a copy.

You should also test your home again after it is fixed to be sure that radon levels have been reduced. If your living patterns change and you begin occupying a lower level of your home (such as a basement), you should retest your home on that level. In addition, it is a good idea to retest your home sometime in the future to be sure radon levels remain low.

You should use a radon reduction contractor who is listed by EPA's Radon Contractor Proficiency (RCP) Program. This Program tests the technical knowledge of contractors to ensure that they can correct radon problems. RCP contractors must follow specific guidelines which make certain that their work meets minimum quality standards. RCP contractors carry photo I.D. cards and are listed in RCP Program reports.

Radon reduction contractors are required to take the RCP exam and then follow the RCP Mitigation Standards. These standards are available from your state radon office. The RCP radon reduction contractor is also required to review radon measurement results before beginning radon reduction work.

In addition, the RCP contractor must recommend that the home be tested again by an independent EPA listed or state certified radon tester after completing radon reduction work to confirm that elevated levels have been reduced.

MYTH: Scientists are not sure that radon really is a problem.

FACT: Although some scientists dispute that precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.

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