Protect Your Family from Radon Gas Exposure

January 09, 2024

radon gas awareness month january graphic

Radon is a radioactive gas resulting from uranium breaking down in the Earth’s crust. This invisible and odorless gas can cause great harm, especially to children. In-home testing is a great first step toward understanding your risk and improving the air quality in your home if needed.

How Bad is Radon Gas for Kids?

Radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer death for people who do not smoke. It is the second-leading cause of death for smokers. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that each year radon causes about 20,000 lung cancer deaths.

Children are at higher risk for radon-related health issues than adults because their lungs are smaller, and they breathe about twice as fast as adults. Experts estimate that by age 10, a child will ingest twice as much radon as an adult when exposed to the same radon levels over the same amount of time.

Symptoms of Radon Exposure

Radon exposure isn’t like carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause death in a matter of hours. Radon exposure affects people over many years. But even if you have lived in your home for a long time, radon testing is worthwhile.

If your home’s levels are high, taking action now will help reduce your family’s lung cancer risk in the future.

There is no widely available medical test to measure your exposure to radon. But if you are concerned, talk with your provider, who may recommend a checkup or tests to look for possible signs of lung cancer. Possible symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • New or worsening cough
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Raspy voice

People who smoke and have been exposed to high levels of radon are at higher risk of lung cancer than non-smokers.

Radon Gas Is Everywhere

Radon gas is sneaky. It can enter your home through cracks in the foundation, floor drains and other openings. The gas can then rise to the upper floors and get trapped in your home. No level of radon is safe.

All types of houses can have high radon gas levels—old and new homes, well-insulated and drafty homes, and large and small homes, including condominiums. You can’t see, smell or taste radon gas. A test is the only way to know if your home has high radon levels.

Radon Exposure in Florida

Data collected by the Florida Department of Health indicates that one in five Florida homes has a radon level above the EPA “action level” of 4 picocuries per liter. Nine counties, including Dade County, are at higher risk, mainly due to abundant rocky or claylike soils that are rich in uranium.

In 1988, the state established a radon program to help Floridians understand their risk, test for radon gas in homes and public buildings, and fix radon problems.

Radon Testing Can Help — and It’s Free

All public and private schools, daycare centers, nursing homes and hospitals in Florida must submit to radon testing.

It's important for people to test their homes for radon levels as well. Testing isn’t mandatory for individual homes, but it is the only way to know if your home is safe from radon exposure. Tests are readily available and easy to do, and your effort can save lives.

Every state offers free radon home kits. Florida residents can sign-up here.

You can also purchase a home kit online and at home improvement stores or hire a certified radon services provider to conduct the test.

In Florida, any business or individual that offers radon services must be certified by the state. You can find a list of certified radon services companies on the radon program website.

High Radon Levels? There’s Help

If your home has elevated radon levels, a radon services company can perform radon mitigation to decrease the amount of radon in your home. These companies use a two-step radon mitigation process in a home or other type of building.

  • Step One: Ventilation. Radon service technicians will install a fan and vent system to pull air from the soil in your basement, crawl space or other areas. The system directs the radon outside, away from your house.
  • Step Two: Sealing. The technicians will seal cracks and openings in the building foundation to reduce the flow of radon and help the vent system operate more efficiently.

Learn more about Florida’s radon program and how it can help keep you and your family safe and healthy. If you think you or your children have been exposed to high radon levels, make an appointment with your Memorial primary care provider or search for a new provider.