Health risks - radon in air
 
Domestic-level exposure
 

Radon exposure (actually radon progeny) has been linked to lung cancer in numerous case-control studies performed in the United States, Europe and China. There are approximately 21,000 deaths per year in the USA due to radon-induced lung cancers.

One of the most comprehensive radon studies performed in the United States by Dr. R. William Field and colleagues found a 50% increased lung cancer risk even at the protracted exposures at the EPA's action level of 4 pCi/L. North American and European Pooled analyses further support these findings.
Radon has been considered the second leading cause of lung cancer and leading environmental cause of cancer mortality by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Others have reached similar conclusions for the United Kingdom and France. Radon exposure in homes and offices may arise from certain subsurface rock formations, and also from certain building materials (e.g., some granites). The greatest risk of radon exposure arises in buildings that are airtight, insufficiently ventilated, and have foundation leaks that allow air from the soil into basements and dwelling rooms.

 

 

Testing and mitigation

A radon test kit.
There are relatively simple tests for radon gas. In some countries these tests are methodically done in areas of known systematic hazards. Radon test kits are commercially available. The short-term radon test kits used for screening purposes are inexpensive, in some cases free. The kit includes a collector that the user hangs in the lowest livable floor of the house for 2 to 7 days. The user then sends the collector to a laboratory for analysis. Long term kits, taking collections for up to one year, are also available. An open-land test kit can test radon emissions from the land before construction begins.

Radon levels fluctuate naturally, due to factors like transient weather conditions, so an initial test might not be an accurate assessment of a home's average radon level. Radon levels are at a maximum during the coolest part of the day when pressure differentials are greatest. Therefore, a high result (over 4 pCi/L) justifies repeating the test before undertaking more expensive abatement projects. Measurements between 4 and 10 pCi/L warrant a long term radon test. Measurements over 10 pCi/L warrant only another short term test so that abatement measures are not unduly delayed. Purchasers of real estate are advised to delay or decline a purchase if the seller has not successfully abated radon to 4 pCi/L or less.

Because the half-life of radon is only 3.8 days, removing or isolating the source will greatly reduce the hazard within a few weeks. Another method of reducing radon levels is to modify the building's ventilation. Generally, the indoor radon concentrations increase as ventilation rates decrease. In a well ventilated place, the radon concentration tends to align with outdoor values (typically 10 Bq/m3, ranging from 1 to 100 Bq/m3).

Radon levels in indoor air can be lowered in a number of ways, from sub-slab depressurization to increasing the ventilation rate of the building. The four principal ways of reducing the amount of radon accumulating in a house are:
Sub-slab depressurization (soil suction) by increasing under-floor ventilation;
Improving the ventilation of the house and avoiding the transport of radon from the basement into living rooms;
Installing a radon sump system in the basement;
Installing a positive pressurization or positive supply ventilation system.

According to the EPA's "A Citizen's Guide to Radon", the method to reduce radon "...primarily used is a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside," which is also called sub-slab depressurization, active soil depressurization, or soil suction. Generally indoor radon can be mitigated by sub-slab depressurization and exhausting such radon-laden air to the outdoors, away from windows and other building openings. "EPA generally recommends methods which prevent the entry of radon. Soil suction, for example, prevents radon from entering your home by drawing the radon from below the home and venting it through a pipe, or pipes, to the air above the home where it is quickly diluted" and "EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to reduce radon because, by itself, sealing has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently" according to the EPA's "Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction: How to fix your home".

Positive-pressure ventilation systems can be combined with a heat exchanger to recover energy in the process of exchanging air with the outside, and simply exhausting basement air to the outside is not necessarily a viable solution as this can actually draw radon gas into a dwelling. Homes built on a crawl space may benefit from a radon collector installed under a "radon barrier" (a sheet of plastic that covers the crawl space). For crawlspaces, the EPA states "An effective method to reduce radon levels in crawlspace homes involves covering the earth floor with a high-density plastic sheet. A vent pipe and fan are used to draw the radon from under the sheet and vent it to the outdoors. This form of soil suction is called submembrane suction, and when properly applied is the most effective way to reduce radon levels in crawlspace homes