General Radon Information

Pennsylvania specific radon and radon level information can be found throughout this site. You will be able to find information about certified radon inspectors in Pennsylvania, as well as detailed radon level information for every county in Pennsylvania.

Radon is the main source of ionizing radiation to which most of us are exposed. It is an invisible, odorless, tasteless radioactive gas that is produced by minerals like uranium and radium in the soil. Ionizing radiation can harm the cells that make up our body’s tissues and organs. The type of radiation that radon produces is mainly an internal hazard – it produces damage when it gets into the body. The result of such damage is that radon causes lung cancer in humans. Radon is a known human lung carcinogen and is the largest source of radiation exposure and risk to the general public. Most inhaled radon is rapidly exhaled, but the inhaled decay products readily deposit in the lung, where they irradiate sensitive cells in the airways increasing the risk of lung cancer. The National Academy of Sciences' Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation VI Report (1998) concluded that radon causes between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year in this country. The U.S. Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States – second only to smoking. For nonsmokers in this country, radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer.

Radon gets into the indoor air primarily from soil under homes and other buildings. As air in your house heats up, it rises and leaks out of attic openings and around the upper floor windows, creating a small suction at the lowest level of the house. That suction pulls the radon out of the soil and into your house. Fortunately, there are extremely effective means of keeping radon out of your home. Qualified contractors can typically mitigate radon problems for a cost similar to that for may common home repairs such as painting or having a new water heater installed - anywhere from $800 to $2,500.

Sheared fault zones in the Appalachian region of the Eastern United States have the potential for creating anomalously high amounts of indoor radon. These fault zones, many of which have known uranium occurrences, are usually characterized by high gamma radioactivity. Factors controlling the radon concentrations at these locations are bedrock uranium concentration, high permeability, and high radon emanation. The texture imparted to the rock during shear also increases its permeability. Oxidation of iron during deformation and subsequent weathering results in the distinctive iron "staining" characteristic of many shear zones. Iron oxides and other metal oxides scavenge uranium and radium available through the weathering processes, increase the radon emanation from the rocks and soils, and make radon readily available to local ground waters. High radon levels in water accompany high soil radon in Boyertown, PA (Wanty and Gundersen, 1988). High radon emanation, especially along fracture surfaces, contributes significantly to radon concentrations in water. Mylonites tend to be aquifers because of the increased permeability caused by the shear bands formed during deformation, whereas the same rock, when not sheared, may not be an aquifer. Shear zones in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, and Maryland show anomalously high radioactivity and uranium, indoor radon, and soil radon concentrations that set them apart statistically from their unsheared host rocks.

Shear zones are not the only cause of high indoor radon levels and some shear zones will not create radon problems. However, shear zones developed in rocks having higher uranium concentration, such as granitic rocks, have a high probability of causing an indoor radon problem.

Estimated lung cancer deaths per year in Pennsylvania due to residential radon exposure is between 860 - 3,800.

An estimated 40% of Pennsylvania homes have radon levels greater than the EPA guideline of 4 pCi/L.

Forty-nine of Pennsylvania's 67 counties have a predicted average indoor level greater than 4 pCi/L.

About 270,000 single homes in Pennsylvania, with about 750,000 occupants, are expected to have radon levels greater than 20 pCi/L (over five times greater than the EPA action level of 4 pCi/L).

Only about 10% of homes in Pennsylvania have been tested.

It's not hard to find out if you have a radon problem in your home. All you need to do is test for it. Testing is easy and should only take a few minutes of your time. The amount of radon in the air is measured in picocuries per liter of air, or pCi/L. Pennsylvania law requires that all third-party persons performing radon testing, mitigation or laboratory analysis in Pennsylvania be certified. An exemption to this law allows the homeowner or occupant to test his/her own home without being certified. Test kits may be purchased from a Pennsylvania certified laboratory or a local home center or hardware store. The homeowner or occupant should verify that analysis of that device is performed by a Pennsylvania certified laboratory. If you prefer, or if you are buying or selling a home, you can hire a certified tester to do the testing for you. To verify Pennsylvania certification please contact the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Radon Division at 1-800-237- 2366 (1-800-23RADON) or visit their website at www.state.pa.us (Keyword: "DEP Radon").

All Pennsylvanians who have tested their homes or other buildings for radon and found screening levels greater than 100 pCi/L, are entitled to receive a free short-term confirmation test kit from the Bureau of Radiation Protection. This test kit will be mailed to those eligible by express mail. For this free service, please call 1 (800) 237-2366 or (717) 783-3594 for further details.

If an active (fan-powered) radon mitigation system has been installed in your home within the last year, you are entitled to receive a free, long-term radon test kit (Alpha Track Detector). Please call 1 (800) 237-2366 or (717) 783-3594 for further details.