Is radon dangerous? How do you know if you have radon in your home?

by James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H.

I just assumed everyone knew what radon gas was and why it is bad for you.  Recently I was talking to a very smart, educated woman. I forget the context of the conversation, but she told me she had never heard of radon or that it can cause cancer.  Viola, blog post idea.  So here goes.

For starters, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, behind cigarettes.

It’s the colorless, odorless gas breakdown from the radioactive rock uranium. It seeps into your house from ground up.  Actually, it’s in the air all over the place, but at low, safer levels.  Investigators first noticed its danger, risk of lung cancer, in uranium miners who were exposed to high levels.

At present the EPA recommends keeping the average level in your house below 4 pCi/L.  You can check this level with a monitor or have someone do it for you.  If your level is too high, you can fix the problem in several ways such as sealing cracks in the basement and putting in a ventilation system designed to get rid of it.  We have that in our house.  They call it mitigating the radon.  Discover how to find a good, reliable radon mitigation contractor in your area at the EPA website.

Although the risk of radon is higher in some regions, like mine, it has been found in every state.  Overall, one in 15 homes have levels of 4 or above.  You can easily buy a radon detection kit for $20 to $30 at your local hardware store.  The instructions are easy.  In fact, January is National Radon Action month and you can go to the EPA website for more information, including ways to get a free detection kit. Go ahead.  Do it, get it out of the way, then one less worry.

Have you already done it?

Doctors and business owners: Send customized issues of James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor to your customers or patients. E-mail for details.

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19 Responses to “Is radon dangerous? How do you know if you have radon in your home?”

  1. Dr. J Says:

    Radon is one of those dangers that people seem to overlook. Our county puts out a radon map of the area to provide information for homeowners and perspective home buyers.

    Great information, as usual, Dr. Hubbard!

    Dr. Js last blog post..Nibbles: Cutting calories can improve memory, peanut plant had sanitation violations, and looking in on Dunkin’ Donuts

  2. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:


    A real estate agent told me, “You can do something about it but a lot of people just ignore it.”

    Not good advice

  3. cathy Says:

    I certainly am fully aware of radon and it’s health risks, but I haven’t had my house tested. I’m a bit surprised that it wasn’t required by my insurance company when we moved to granite central. So, I’m off to see about this free detection kit. One less worry to cross off of the list!

  4. Steve Parker, M.D. Says:

    Radon was a popular issue 10-15 years ago then it faded from public view. Thanks for the reminder. Radon mitigation sounds expensive. Before I purchase my next home, I think I’ll test if first for radon, if they’ll let me.

    Steve Parker, M.D.s last blog post..“Doc, I Hardly Eat Anything And I Still Can’t Lose Weight!”

  5. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Cathy, It is worth the trouble.


  6. Mark Says:

    Most new homes in the county that I reside in, come with a passive unit and a testing unit. A god reminder. Thank you!

  7. Sagan Says:

    Heh… I didn’t know it was called that. Interesting. Am going to look into this some more. I love how you keep bringing attention to issues that we normally really neglect to address!

    Sagans last blog post..Poll: What form of exercise do you prefer?

  8. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Thanks Mark, Good to know.

  9. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Sagan, Check it out.
    Glad you like the info

  10. Radon Taskforce Says:

    Thank you for your post about the hazards of radon. If only more Doctors would educate their patients about the hazards of living with elevated radon levels. There will be a radon medical forum on May 7, 2009 in Oakbrook, Illinois. Details are available at The forum offers 6 hours of Category 1 CME credit.

  11. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Thanks for the information on the forum.

  12. Radon Taskforce Says:

    Your readers may be interested in this morning’s story out of Wisconsin. A 40 year old never smoking woman with lung cancer and elevated radon levels in her home.

  13. James Hubbard, M.D., M.P.H. Says:

    Great example. Thanks

  14. James Hubbard’s My Family Doctor Blog » Blog Archive » Thank you, bloggers! (Plus: Find new blogs to read.) Says:

    [...] A Life Less Sweet: “Friday links” (talked about Dr. Hubbard’s blog post about radon) [...]

  15. Home Inspector in San Diego Says:

    Radon causes between 15,000 and 22,000 deaths a year from lung cancer. It is certainly prudent to spend a few bucks and have your home tested. Please feel free to read an article I authored recently on the subject of radon: As a starting point, I would advise visiting the EPA site, to check on radon levels in your area: Keep in mind, even if your neighbor has high levels of radon, it does not mean your home suffers the same fate. We have completed multiple radon tests in a given neighborhood and have found some home-sites with high levels, and others close by with acceptable levels.

  16. Home Inspector in Orange County Says:

    Radon should be taken very serious. Most people do not want to spend the $100 to $150 to have their house tested even though the Surgeon General recommends it all all home purchases.

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