What is Radon

Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas. It is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and chemically inert. Unless you test for it, there is no way of telling how much is present.

Radon is formed by the natural radioactive decay of uranium in rock, soil, and water. Naturally existing, low levels of uranium occur widely in Earth's crust. It can be found in all 50 states. Once produced, radon moves through the ground to the air above. Some remains below the surface and dissolves in water that collects and flows under the ground's surface.

Is Radon in Jo Daviess County

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that any radon exposure carries some risk; no level of radon exposure is always safe. However, the EPA recommends homes be fixed if an occupant's long-term exposure will average 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.

According to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) 600 sites in Jo Daviess County have been tested for radon.  330 sites or 55% were found to be above 4 pCi/L.

How Does Radon Enter a Building

Most indoor radon comes into the building from the soil or rock beneath it. Radon and other gases rise through the soil and get trapped under the building. The trapped gases build up pressure. Air pressure inside homes is usually lower than the pressure in the soil. Therefore, the higher pressure under the building forces gases though floors and walls and into the building. Most of the gas moves through cracks and other openings. Once inside, the radon can become trapped and concentrated.

Openings which commonly allow radon gas to easily enter a building include the following:
Cracks in floors and walls
Gaps in suspended floors
Openings around sump pumps and drains
Cavities in walls
Joints in construction materials
Gaps around utility penetrations (pipes and wires)
Crawl spaces that open directly into the building

Health Effects of Radon

Radon is a Class A human carcinogen, which means there is actual evidence that exposure to radon causes lung cancer in humans.  According to the EPA, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers.  Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths, in the U.S., every year.  About 2,900 of these deaths occur among people who have never smoked. Lung cancer in humans arising from radon exposure is recognized by the American Medical Association, U.S. Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Public Health Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Disease Control, National Academy of Science, National Cancer Institute & World Health Organization. Health effects from radon is usually cumulative and can take many years to appear.

How to Test For Radon

Radon test kits can be purchased at the Jo Daviess County Health Department for $5 per kit.  You can also have a licensed Radon Measurement Professional come to your house and perform a test.  IEMA recommends professional testing in real estate transactions.  IEMA also recommends hiring a licensed Radon Mitigation Professional to reduce your indoor radon concentrations.

Radon levels inside a building can be lowered by installing a radon mitigation system that collects radon prior to entry into the house and discharges it to a safe location.

Visit IEMA’s website for an updated list of licensed Radon Measurement and Mitigation professionals.