Radon is a radioactive gas. Radon is a radioactive element that is part of the radioactive decay chain of naturally occurring uranium in soil. You can't see, smell, or taste radon, and unlike carbon monoxide and many other home pollutants, radon's adverse health effect, lung cancer, is usually not produced immediately. Thus, you may be exposed to radon for many years without ever suspecting its presence in your home.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) action level for radon is 4.0 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). At this level, the risk of developing lung cancer is estimated at about 7 out of 1,000 persons if you never smoked. The chances increase to 62 out of 1,000 persons if you smoke. That is why United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) recommends reducing your radon level if the concentration is 4.0 pCi/L or more.
If you would like to perform the test yourself, read the Guidelines for Radon Measurements in the Home (PDF) before placing the detector in your house. This guide outlines the steps for home radon testing, things to remember when testing and where to place the detector.
If you live in Champaign County, Illinois, you can purchase a test kit for $5 by visiting our Environmental Health Division (north side of the building). This test kit is for households only, not for businesses.
If you would like a professional to test for radon, you can visit the IEMA website. Click on the interactive map, then click on your county, and a list of contractors (both measurement and mitigation professionals) will be made available to you.
Radon reduction techniques are used to stop radon entry and reduce indoor radon concentrations. IEMA recommends hiring a licensed mitigation professional to reduce your indoor radon concentrations, as you would hire a licensed plumber, pest control operator, asbestos contractor or other specialist.
Trained mitigators using specialized equipment can discover where radon is entering and advise homeowners on the best way to reduce radon concentrations. The most common technique used by radon reduction firms is called "subslab depressurization" (SSD) and does not require major renovations. Post-mitigation testing must be performed to determine the effectiveness of the mitigation system.
The cost of an active mitigation system is typically between $800 and $1,200 for installation, and the energy cost for running the fan will average around $100 per year.
To find a list of contractors (both measurement and mitigation professionals), visit the IEMA website. Click on the interactive map, then click on your county to see a list.