One in seven Vermont homes has elevated levels of radon. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that has no color, smell or taste. Radon comes 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. Radon is present in outdoor air, and radon levels can build up inside people’s homes.
Unless you test for it, there is no way of knowing if radon is present in your home.
Watch this video and hear one Vermonter’s story about the impact of high levels of radon in her childhood home.
Many factors contribute to radon entering a home. Neighboring homes can have significantly different radon levels from one another. Here are some reasons why some homes have elevated radon levels and others do not:
- Concentration of radon in the soil and permeability of the soil under the home
- Structure and construction of the home
- Type, operation and maintenance of the home's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system
You can see the results of radon tests in your town or how the bedrock geology of Vermont relates to radon risk. View the Radon Risk in Vermont maps
Health Effects of Radon
Everyone is exposed to some radon in indoor and outdoor air. Breathing air with radon increases a person’s risk of getting lung cancer. A person’s lung cancer risk due to radon depends on the level of radon in the air they breathe, how long they are exposed, and whether or not they are a smoker. Radon decays into radioactive particles that damage lung tissue and can lead to lung cancer over the course of a person’s lifetime.
If you smoke and your home has high levels of radon, your risk of getting lung cancer is especially high. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 86% of radon-related, lung-cancer deaths occur among current or former smokers. Learn more about radon, smoking and lung cancer
Testing Your Indoor Air for Radon—Request a Free KitThe use of a long-term radon in air test kit is best because radon levels can change daily, weekly and seasonally. We recommend that you test your home for 3 to 12 months (ideally including a heating season). Longer test periods ensure the most accurate measure of actual exposure. Free long-term radon in air test kits are available to Vermont residents. You can request one from the Radon Program by:
- Calling 800-439-8550 (toll-free in Vermont)
- Emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow steps in this video to complete your long-term radon in air test kit:
You can purchase long-, medium- and short-term radon test kits from the Health Department Laboratory. Call 802-338-4736 or 800-660-9997 (toll-free in Vermont) or request a kit under the Environmental Testing and Drinking Water Testing Order Forms section.
Radon in Drinking Water
Well water that contains radon may increase the level of radon in a home. Activities like taking showers, doing laundry, or running the dishwasher can release radon into the air.
Vermont law does not require a radon test as part of a real estate transaction. 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 radon test kits. Request a kit under the Environmental Testing and Drinking Water Testing Order Forms section.
Short-term testing may be done in the basement if the buyer plans to use it as a living space. If you are using short-term test kits, the EPA recommends using two testing devices, placed side-by-side. See the EPA’s Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon for more information.
Radon, 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. Radon levels below 4.0 pCi/L still pose some risk, but you can reduce your risk by lowering the radon level in your home. Most radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in a home to 2.0 pCi/L or lower.
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.
- Radon in Your Home Fact Sheet
- Radon Information—EPA
- Frequently Asked Question about the Health Effects of Radon—Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Radon in the Home—CDC
- Radon in Schools
Check out the 2017 Radon Poster Contest winners from Vermont elementary and middle school students.