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Radon is an invisible, odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas. Released from the normal decay of uranium in rocks and soil, it seeps up through the ground and diffuses into the air. Everyone breathes it in every day (usually at very low levels), but people who inhale high levels of the gas are at an increased risk for developing lung cancer. The only way to know if a home has elevated radon levels is to test for the presence of the gas.

What Is Radon?

Radon is a radioactive gas released from the normal decay of uranium in rocks and soil. It is an invisible, odorless, and tasteless gas that seeps up through the ground and diffuses into the air. In a few areas, depending on local geology, it dissolves into groundwater and can be released into the air when the water is used. Radon gas usually exists at very low levels outdoors. However, in areas without adequate ventilation, such as underground mines, radon can accumulate to levels that substantially increase the risk of lung cancer.
 

Exposure to Radon

Radon is present in nearly all air. Everyone breathes it in every day, usually at very low levels. However, people who inhale high levels of radon are at an increased risk for developing lung cancer.
 
The gas can enter homes through cracks in floors, walls, or foundations, and collect indoors. It can also be released from building materials, or from water obtained from wells that contain radon.
 
Radon levels can be higher in homes that are well insulated, tightly sealed, and/or built on uranium-rich soil. Because of their closeness to the ground, basement and first floors typically have the highest radon levels.
 
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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