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Radon Testing: It’s So Smart, A Caveman Would Do It!

2013 January 22

By Jack Stephen Barnette,

It’s sometimes difficult to remember a time when certain luxuries of today didn’t exist. Smartphones, e-mail, color copy-machines and blogs have become part of our daily lives. There are some things, however, that have been part of human life for a lot longer.

Our ancient grandparents were once keeping warm by the campfire in their cave. And, if hunting was good, they would sit around the fire and enjoy reindeer steaks, muskox stew and roots. The outside air was clean and fresh, but inside the cave the air could be smoky, and, if the geology was right, full of radon gas. Why am I writing about cavemen and radon? Well, it too has ancient ancestors.

All soil has some amount of natural uranium. Uranium has a radiological half-life of a little more than 4.4 billion years. It remains a solid material in soil for eons, but uranium eventually breaks down to radium. The most common form of radium, which also is a solid element, breaks down to radon in roughly 1600 years.

Unfortunately, like many Americans today, our caveman ancestors didn’t have any idea what radon was or the health risks associated with it. It is a radioactive gas and is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon can be found all over the U.S. It can get into any type of building — homes, offices, schools – and even cave dwellings.

January is Radon Awareness Month. The only way to know if you are at risk from radon is to test your home for radon. Testing is cheap and easy, and it’s the right thing to do for you and your family. Our ancient ancestors did not have the technology to know about radon or to test for it; but you do. Please take advantage of the wonders of modern life and protect yourself and your family.

About the author: Jack Stephen Barnette is a Senior Environmental Scientist in the Air and Radiation Division at U.S.EPA’s Region 5 office in Chicago. Mr. Barnette has been working on environmental and environmental health issues since 1977.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

3 Responses leave one →
  1. Gianni Nocchi permalink
    January 22, 2013

    I agree!..the human healt is so important, and we have to keep it also from radon gas! :D

  2. Enviro Equipment Inc. permalink
    January 23, 2013

    We rent equipment used for detecting radon and the problem with any equipment or home test kit used for radon is that if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily get a false reading. Is better to hire a service to do the testing for you then take a chance by doing it yourself. I’m sure you’re local health department could direct you to qualified services in your area.

  3. Allan permalink
    February 2, 2014

    Testing is inexpensive and radon gas is a serious health concern. We mitigated our home several years ago and were able to bring the level down to .6 pCi/L. I would highly recommend all home owners test for radon.

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