Radon Myths and Facts

Myth: Scientists aren’t sure radon really is a problem.

Fact: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control, the American Lung Association, and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.


Myth: Radon testing is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.

Fact: Radon testing is inexpensive and easy—it should take only a little of your time.


Myth: Radon test kits are not reliable and are difficult to find.

Fact: Reliable test kits are available through the mail, in hardware stores, and other retail outlets. Call your state radon office for a list of test kit companies that have met EPA requirements for reliability or are state certified (512-834-6600, ext. 2444).


Myth: Homes with radon problems can’t be fixed.

Fact: There are simple solutions to radon problems in homes. Thousands of homeowners have already fixed radon problems in their homes. Radon levels can be readily lowered for about $500 to $2,500. Call your state radon office for a list of contractors who have met EPA requirements or are state certified.


Myth: Radon only affects certain kinds of homes.

Fact: House construction can affect radon levels. However, radon can be a problem in homes of all types—old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements, and homes without basements.


Myth: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.

Fact: High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know your radon level is to test.


Myth: A neighbor’s test result is a good indication of whether your home has a problem.

Fact: It’s not. Radon levels vary from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.


Myth: Everyone should test their water for radon.

Fact: While radon gets into some homes through the water, you should first test the air in your home for radon. If you find high levels and your water comes from a well, contact a lab certified to measure radiation in water to have your water tested.


Myth: It’s difficult to sell homes where radon problems have been discovered.

Fact: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked or frustrated. The added protection is sometimes a good selling point.


Myth: I’ve lived in my home for so long that it doesn’t make sense to take action now.

Fact: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you’ve lived with a radon problem for a long time.


Myth: Short-term tests can’t be used for making a decision about whether to fix your home.

Fact: A short-term test followed by a second short-term test may be used to decide whether to fix your home. However, the closer the average of your two short-term is to 4 pCi/L, the less certain you can be about whether your year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk. Radon levels can be reduced in most homes to 2 pCi/L or below.


How Radon Enters Your House


This image is a picture of a 3-story house and description of how radon many enter your house.  A. Cracks in concrete slab; B. Spaces behind brick veneer walls that rest on uncapped hollow-block foundation; C. Pores and cracks in concrete blocks; D. Floor-wall joints; E. Exposed soil, as in a sump; F. Weeping (drain) tile, if drained to open sump; G. Mortar joints; H. Loose fitting pipe penetrations; I. Open tops of block walls; J. Building materials such as some rocks; K. Water (from some wells)

  1. Cracks in concrete slab
  2. Spaces behind brick veneer walls that rest on uncapped hollow-block foundation
  3. Pores and cracks in concrete blocks
  4. Floor-wall joints
  5. Exposed soil, as in a sump
  6. Weeping (drain) tile, if drained to open sump
  7. Mortar joints
  8. Loose fitting pipe penetrations
  9. Open tops of block walls
  10. Building materials such as some rocks
  11. Water (from some wells)



Adapted from “Healthy Indoor Air for America’s Homes,” EPA, USDA, and Montana State University by Janie L. Harris, M.Ed., CRS, former Extension Housing and Environment Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Texas A&M System. 1999.


Last updated: July 3, 2015

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