Awareness of radon gas in homes is growing - and so are questions about what it is, where it comes from, and why it’s so dangerous. One of the defining features of radon gas is that it’s impossible to use our senses to detect it - unlike a natural gas leak, a fire, or a flood, there’s nothing to see, smell, or hear. So how do you know if your home needs radon testing? Read on to learn more!
Radon is a radioactive gas formed when uranium deep underground begins to break down. It makes its way up to the ground level where it usually dissipates into the atmosphere. However, our homes - and particularly our basements - can attract and collect radon gas, where it can then build up into toxic levels.
Radon usually enters your home through below-grade spaces like basements or crawl spaces. As the gas rises through the soil, it can enter through fittings, cracks, or windows. It can also permeate groundwater, and enter through piping, sump pumps, or drains.
Radon gas is the second most leading cause of lung cancer in North America. But unlike tobacco smoke (which is the leading cause), it’s much more difficult to know if you’re being exposed to it. When radon gas is inhaled, the small radioactive particles release small bursts of energy into the soft tissue of your lungs, damaging the cells. Over time, this damage causes the cells to change and become cancerous.
Because the lungs are the primary organ to be affected by radon gas, many of the early symptoms of exposure include:
The best way to know whether your home has dangerous levels of radon gas is to have a home radon test. The test is passive but usually takes a few months to complete - radon gas levels can change with the seasons and weather, so it’s important to take a long term sample for accuracy. While DIY testing kits are available, we do recommend working with a professional - radon tests require specific siting to ensure that you get the best and most accurate results.