Second Leading Cause Of Lung Cancer


Same as Half a Pack a Day

if at 4.0 pCi/L*


Radon is a radioactive, odorless, tasteless, colorless, Class A carcinogen gas. It comes from the natural decay of radium in the soil, and can enter buildings through cracks or even penetrate concrete. When inhaled, radon particles change DNA in the lungs. Over the course of years, radon exposure can dramatically increase the chance of lung cancer.

Over a third of all buildings in Northern Illinois have radon levels over 4.0 pCi/L, the level at which the EPA warns you to take action and remove the radon. Inhaling this level of radon is roughly the same lung cancer exposure as smoking a half a pack of cigarettes a day. * Environmental Protection Agency


Worse Than Most Think

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Kills 1,100
in Illinois

Every year over 1,000 people die in Illinois from radon-induced lung cancer. Nearly 21,000 people die every year nationwide.

Nat. Cancer Institute’s 2010 Surveillance.
Illinois Emergency Management Agency – “Teacher Presentation.”


More people die from the effects of radon than they do in home fires and carbon monoxide poisoning combined. It is the #1 preventable cause of death in the home.

Check The

Like with other topics, there are websites and posts that indicate that radon may be some sort of hoax. Most of this logic is based off of very old and select research.CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE RESEARCH

It’s Here!

All Counties Affected

Research indicates that all Chicagoland counties have high radon levels. At right are the percentage of homes that would fail a radon test.

Affects 1 in 3+ Homes

In the western suburbs, an average of more than one in every three homes is at risk of having high radon. Some neighborhoods are less affected, while some neighborhoods have radon in every home.

Test Everywhere

IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT YOU TEST FOR RADON if you live anywhere in northern Illinois. The Illinois Emergency Management Agency tracks radon levels in the state. If you would like to look up your area, click the map at right.

A Persistent Intruder


While a lot of radon enters a building through cracks in the foundation and the sump pump pit, if these are sealed, it can actually still penetrate through the concrete and through most floor coverings and coatings.

How Radon Exposure Harms

Breathe It

When we breathe the radon gas in, we inhale radioactive particles, referred to as progeny. These radioactive particles enter you lungs.

It Smashes

The alpha particles from the radon gas smash into and damage the DNA inside your lungs. Your body has the ability to repair this damage, but as the cycle repeats itself (typically over 10-25 years) the odds that is incorrectly fixes the DNA increase.


The damaged DNA contributes to lung cancer.

More Details


Radon was discovered in 1900 by Friedrich Ernst and was linked almost immediately to lung issues in miners exposed to very high doses. However, the link between radon in buildings and lung cancer was not heavily researched until after 1984.

What is
Radon Gas?

Radon is produced as part of the decay chain of Uranium 238. Each step of the decay process produces a different element with a different half-life. Uranium 238 has a half life of 4.47 billions years. Radium 226 has a half-life of about 1,600 years. Radon 222, the cancer-causing element, has a half-life of about 3.48 days before it turns into Polonium 218. The decay continues until Lead 210 is achieved. Radon in a building decays over a few days, but more enters the building continuously.


In 1984, a worker by the name of Stanley Watras set off a radiation detector while helping build a nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. However, there was no radioactive material in the plant yet. They tested his house and found very high levels of radon. This sparked intensive research into the prevalence of indoor radon and its effects.


The research over the following years established an undeniable link between radon and lung cancer. They even recently began to identify the DNA damage that is strictly radon induced.


All major health organizations warn of the health risks of elevated indoor radon and recommend testing and mitigation.

Did you Know...?



    Radon is dangerous, but exposure for short periods of time is not considered overly harmful. Installing a radon mitigation system will keep radon levels low.

  • Magic Number

    The EPA’s suggested action level is 4.0 pC/iL. This means that any building with radon levels at or above 4.0 should have a mitigation system. This the same level used as a decision point for most real estate transactions .

  • Not So Magic 2.7

    While 4.0pCi/L is used most often, there is no true safe level of radon. The World Health Organization uses 2.7 as their action level. Levels below 1.0 are sometimes very hard to reach with a radon system, but levels below 2.7 are frequently achieved.

  • Depends on Use

    If you are selling your property, 4.0 should be your guideline. If you are staying in the building, consider how you use the lowest level of the building. If people spend a lot of time sleeping or sitting there, or if children frequently play in this area, you may want to ask our System Designer about reaching a lower number, perhaps under 3.0 pCi/L.

  • A Long Term Issue

    Exposure to radon at the levels encountered in northern Illinois is considered a long term issue. In other words, short-term (days, weeks, months) exposure, while not good for you, has only a small effect on your cancer risk. Exposure over many years is the primary concern.

  • Ambient Numbers

    To get a feel for how your radon level compares to outdoor measurements, consider that the level of radon that you might experience while walking in northern Illinois usually ranges from below .5 to 2.0 pCi/l.

  • High Numbers

    To further build a reference, radon levels in northern Illinois over 50.0 are very rare. Numbers over about 25.0 are considered very high. Numbers under 10.0 are the most common.

  • Children Impacted More

    Children are more adversely affected by radon exposure. This is primarily because their noses are closer to the floor and apt to inhale stronger doses of radon particles. This is especially true if they are crawling or playing on the floor.

  • Stronger on Lower Levels

    Various factors may influence radon levels, but as a general rule of thumb, radon levels tend to drop in half for each floor above the lowest level. For instance, a 12.0 pCi/L reading in the basement would indicate about a 6 on the first floor and a 3 on the second floor.

  • Changes Year by Year

    You should check your radon levels every 2 years. Radon levels can change dramatically over the years – a deposit of Radium in your soil may be on the verge of its next decay step and could produce radon in large amounts in the near future.

  • Deadly

    If you smoke, and live with high radon, your lung cancer risk increases dramatically. For instance. At 4.0 pCi/L radon level, 7 in 1,000 non-smokers will get lung cancer. For smokers, that number jumps to 62.

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