1 in 8 Vermont homes has unsafe levels of radon gas.
You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it.
- What is radon gas?
- What are the health effects of exposure to radon in a home?
- How does radon enter a home?
- Testing your home for radon
- What does the test result mean?
- How can I fix a radon problem?
- Real Estate Transactions
- More information
- Contact us
What is radon gas?
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. Radon has no color, odor or taste and results from the decay of uranium, which is a radioactive element found naturally in the earth’s crust. Over billions of years, uranium decays into radium, and eventually, radon.
Unless you test for it, there is no way of knowing if radon is present in your home.
What are the health effects of exposure to radon in a home?
There are no known health effects connected with brief exposure to radon. However, over a lifetime, breathing air with too much radon increases a person’s risk of getting lung cancer. The risk is increased even more for a smoker exposed to radon.
According to a report by the National Academy of Sciences, radon is estimated to cause between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths per year. It is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
If you smoke and your home has high levels of radon, your risk of getting lung cancer is especially high. The EPA estimates that 86% of radon-related lung-cancer deaths occur among current or former smokers. Learn more.
How does radon enter a home?
Radon is present in soil, air and water. However, soil is the main contributor of radon in homes. The amount of radon that escapes from the soil into a home’s air depends on many factors including geology, soil type, and building construction.
Elevated levels of radon have been found in all types of homes in every area of Vermont. The likelihood of a radon problem cannot be predicted by the style, age, or location of a house. Houses can act like large chimneys, with warm air rising and escaping out upper floor windows and through cracks in the attic. This creates a vacuum at the lowest level of the house, which can pull the radon from the soil into the house.
Well water that contains radon may increase the level of radon gas in a home. Actions like taking showers, doing laundry or running the dishwasher can release radon into the air. It generally takes 10,000 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) in water to increase the radon level in air by 1.0 pCi/L.
Testing your home for radon
The use of a long-term radon test is suggested as radon levels can change daily, weekly, and seasonally. Other recommended guidelines to ensure accuracy include:
- Test your home for three to 12 months (ideally, the length of time would include a heating season). Longer test periods ensure the most accurate measure of actual exposure.
- Place your radon detector in the lowest level of living space in the house (i.e. living room, playroom, den, office, or bedroom).
- Do not put the detector in a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, hallway or closet.
- Do not move your detector until the testing period is completed.
- Do not dust the detector.
Request a Radon Kit
To order a radon kit:
- Complete this form
- Return the form to us by either:
- Email: Radon@vermont.gov
Vermont Department of Health
Environmental Health Radon Program
108 Cherry Street, PO Box 70
Burlington, VT 05402
- Fax: 1-802-863-7483
Or call us at 1-800-439-8550 and we will send you a radon test kit in the mail.
Radon gas, which is measured in units of picocuries per liter (pCi/L)of air, can be found both inside and outside your house. In Vermont, the average radon level in the outside air is 0.4 pCi/L and the average level in homes is about 2.5 pCi/L.
The EPA has set 4.0 pCi/L as the action level for radon. If your test result is at or above 4.0 pCi/L, you should seek help from a certified mitigation contractor to reduce radon levels in your home.
If you have tested both your indoor air and your water for radon, using the Radon Contribution Calculator may help you estimate how much of the radon in air is due to radon in the water supply and how much is due to air entering the home through the foundation.
How can I fix a radon problem?
Visit either of these links for a list of certified professionals:
The cost for installing a radon reduction system can range from $800 to $2,500, depending on the type of house and the choice of system. In most cases, a venting pipe and a fan are used to reduce radon, and no major structural changes to the home are required. Sealing foundation cracks alone has not been proven to lower levels significantly or consistently.
Vermont law does not require a radon test as part of a real estate transaction. However, if radon testing has been done in the past, the buyer must be notified. For real estate transactions or other cases where a quick test is needed, the Health Department Laboratory, private labs and building supply stores sell short-term detectors.
For real estate transactions, short-term testing may be conducted in the basement if the buyer plans to use it as a living space. If you are using short-term test kits, the federal Environmental Protection Agency recommends using two testing devices, placed side-by-side. EPA’s Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon.
- Citizen’s Guide to Radon (EPA)
- General Information About Uranium (CDC)
- Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon (EPA)
- Radon Information (EPA)
- Radon Information Center (National Academy of Science)
- Radon Program (Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium)
- Poster Contest - elementary and middle school students submitted artwork for the 2014 and 2015 Radon Poster Contests.
Call toll free in Vermont: 1-800-439-8550