Radon gas is becoming more of a widespread problem in the United States. In the U.S., one in fifteen homes are affected by elevated radon levels.

January is National Radon Action Month, and state officials are taking part in programs to inform the public about the health dangers radon gas can cause in homes and public properties.

Radon cannot be seen, has no scent, and is colorless. But it invades homes and buildings through foundation cracks and openings and even directly through concrete. Radon gas is considered a carcinogen that comes from decayed radium and uranium in the soil. It is the No.1 cause of lung cancer in non-smokers, and causes people that do smoke a greater chance of being diagnosed with lung cancer when exposed to this deadly gas. 

“Our state is unique as a huge patchwork of overlapping geological features,” said Natalia Deardorff, senior environmental scientist for the California Indoor Radon Program in Sacramento. “Radon is present in areas with uranium or granite. We have found those features throughout the state.”

The purpose of National Radon Action Month is to educate people about the health risks of radon, learning about radon gas itself, and also to inform everyone how to test their homes for radon and what actions need to be taken if there are high levels of radon present. Radon is a problem that affects millions of homes, daycares, schools, and buildings across the country. 

While Southern California is not necessarily a major “hot spot” for large deposits of radon, Deardorff said homeowners should still test for signs of the gas. The federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  suggests levels of 4 (pCi/L) picocuries and above be addressed. Levels of 4 pCi/L is equivalent to 8 cigarettes a day or 250 chest x-rays per year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 3 percent and 14 percent of lung cancer cases are caused by Radon, and suggests people take action against levels higher than 2.7 pCi/L.

“Our department’s message is every homeowner to test their home regardless of location,” Deardorff said. “In California there are no regulations requiring individuals to test or mitigate for radon. But people should test.”

The best way, Deardorff said, is purchase a home do-it-yourself home test kit or hire a certified tester. A registry of certified testers, and more information, can be found on the EPA website www.RadonMonth.org.