Radon Detection: Being Experts in the Invisible

When a home inspector walks into a house he or she is expected to know safety code, to uncover potential hazards and to see the invisible. Is the roof in good shape? Does the plumbing work as it should? Is the electrical system safe enough to handle the current load? Beyond the visible, inspectors must be experts in the invisible. This includes detecting invisible radon gas.


Radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless radioactive gas. It is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, killing about 58 people per day in the United States. The only way to discover how much radon is present in a home is through testing.



Radon is found everywhere as part of the air we breathe. It concentrates when it becomes trapped indoors. According to the EPA, radon can be found in all 50 states and in one in 15 US homes. Radon levels often vary significantly–-two homes right next to each other can have completely different radon levels. That is why no region is exempt from measuring radon. Modern buildings are often well insulated and windows are usually kept closed. This can allow radon to build up to levels where our internal DNA repair system can no longer keep all cells healthy. Radon can enter a home or workplace through the hot water tank, sink, shower, and microscopic cracks in a building’s foundation.


Most people haven’t heard about radon or the danger it poses because it does not show symptoms until years later. The process that forms radon is also complex. The rocks and soil beneath our homes contain traces of uranium. Over time, the uranium breaks down and forms other elements. This is called radioactive decay. Radon is one link in the decay process which emits radioactive radiation in the form of an alpha particle.


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