January Is National Radon Action Month

by Lynne Clement, Communications Specialist, Division of Public Health Services

Radon is a naturally occurring tasteless, odorless, and colorless radioactive gas that emanates from soil and bedrock, including granite. It can seep into homes primarily through cracks and seams in foundation floors or walls and may be present in private well water. When radon accumulates in indoor air, it poses an increased risk of developing lung cancer over a lifetime. In fact, radon exposure in homes is the leading cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers in the U.S.

In the Granite State, potential exposure to radon is greater than the national average. Radon has been recorded in homes throughout the state, and that is why it is important to test your home. In general, communities in southeastern and eastern New Hampshire have the highest percentage of homes with elevated radon levels. According to data from the NH Department of Environmental Services, Rockingham, Carroll, and Coos counties have several communities in which more than half of the homes tested had elevated radon.

Any home, regardless of age or structural type, may have elevated radon levels, even if homes nearby don’t. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. If your living patterns change and you begin occupying a lower level of your home (such as a basement), you should retest your home on that level. Homebuyers should also request a radon test prior to purchase.

Testing for radon is easy and inexpensive. There are “do-it-yourself” radon test kits available online, in hardware stores, and at other retail outlets. Follow the instructions carefully for length of test time and placement, usually the lowest livable level of the home, and return to the designated lab immediately. The lab results will indicate if you have elevated radon levels.

EPA recommends homes be fixed if the radon level is 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or more. Because there is no known safe level of exposure to radon, EPA also recommends that Americans consider fixing their home for radon levels between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L. If mitigation is necessary, contact a nationally certified radon mitigation professional. There is a list on the NH Department of Health and Human Services website.

For further information, please visit the NH Radon Program here.


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