What is Radon? Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas created by the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium.
What is the Danger? According to the US Surgeon General’s office, essentially all lung cancers not explained by smoking are caused by exposure to radon gas and its daughter products.
What is the Carcinogenic Mechanism of Radon? Each decaying radon atom (or one of its daughter products in the decay chain) gives off a spark of energy as alpha radiation. This energy is not great enough to penetrate skin, but can damage an unprotected living cell, such as in the lungs. Most of the time, the energy simply kills the cell and it is washed away. However, if the cell’s DNA is damaged in a way that allows it to reproduce … but not according to its original design … the resulting mutation could be cancerous.
What is a “Safe” Level of Radon? There is no such thing as a “safe” level of radon any more than there is a “safe” number of cigarettes. However, the US EPA has published a suggested “Action Level” for radon mitigation at 4 pCi/l as one that seems to make sense economically to meaningfully reduce general health risks. (In perspective, a family whose home has radon levels of 4 pCi/l is still exposed to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site.)
How Common is Radon in the Treasure Valley? As many as one third of all living spaces tested in the Treasure Valley have radon concentrations that exceed the EPA’s recommended action levels of 4 pCi/l in air.
Can Radon Affect the Value of My Home? Although the State of Idaho does not currently regulate radon levels through real estate transactions, the market is becoming more aware of this threat every year. Therefore, high radon levels can have an adverse affect on market values or ability to sell homes. Typical market reactions would involve making purchase cost adjustments in line with “costs to cure”.
Other Resources for Information on Radon