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

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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.