PubH 5104/5104 Environmental Hazards

Division of Environmental Health Sciences


Characteristics of Radon-222

Fate and Transport

Monitoring in the Environment


Measurement Methods

Control and Prevention

Harmful Effects

Absorption, Distribution and Organic Sites of Toxicity

Radon Dose

Radon Biomarkers

Risk Assessment

Molecular Action and Genetic Effects

Radon for Skeptics

Radon for Children

What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring gas that comes from various rocks, soils, and underground water sources. Radon gives off radiation (radiation is the process of giving off energy in waves or particles) that can cause lung cancer. Radon forms from the breakdown of the natural elements uranium and radium.

Remember your states of matter?

  • -They are solid, liquid, and gas.
  • -A solid is something that has definite shape and volume.
  • -A liquid is something that does not have definite shape, but still has volume.
  • -A gas is something that does not have definite shape or volume.

What Can Radon Do?

Radon can cause lung cancer.(-Lung cancer is a disease of a person’s lungs, where the cells’ DNA is damaged and those damaged cells replicate uncontrollably). Radon is second only to smoking as a cause of lung cancer. It’s a silent killer, since people can’t tell if they’re being exposed. And its effects are more hazardous for children than adults.

Why are Children more Susceptible?

Children are more sensitive to radon because their lungs are smaller and their respiratory rates are twice as high. Doctors say that, by the age of 10, a child receives twice the lung dose of an adult who’s been exposed to radon for the same length of time.

What Parts of the Country Have a High Potential for Radon?
In the northern states, particularly as you go northeast into Maine, there are significant pockets of high levels of radon. In the Midwest, northern Iowa and Minnesota are considered high areas as are the Dakotas, Montana, and Idaho. Radon levels are lower in Washington and Oregon.

How Do I Tell if Radon is in my House?

You can buy a radon test kit at a department store from about $10-$40. These can be placed in the basement of your home.

Where Would Radon Be, if it was where I Live, and How Does it get There?

If radon is in your house, it can get in through any tiny space that comes in contact with soil that contains radon or through groundwater. Radon can be anywhere, but it matters how much of it is present in relation to other air. If the concentration (amount) is high enough, then it can cause harm. In the outside air it is not harmful because radon is present in dilute (dilute means smaller or weaker concentration) enough amounts.

Radon comes from the ground and can enter a building from the soil. Radon changes from a solid form into a gaseous or liquid form and can be released from the soil and groundwater. One way radon can get into buildings is by cracks in the basement, and if there is not good ventilation, radon concentration can be harmful.

What Can I Do about Radon?

You can tell your family about radon, do more research to learn more about radon, test your home with an in-home test kit, spread the knowledge at your school (maybe doing a science project or paper on radon), and be just aware of radon.

What is the Environmental Protection Agency Doing about Radon?

The EPA has a new map out that shows radon potential—high, medium, or low level. The agency also works with schools to find the best way to lessen radon exposure.

How Do you Find the State Radiation Department?
Every state radiation department should be listed in the phone book under state government. NEA’s Healthy School Handbook includes a list of the radiation departments in every state and phone numbers for each of the 10 EPA regional offices. The indoor air quality office of each state, can also direct people to the state radiation department.

Where Can I Get more Information on Radon?

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