Is Radon Only in Basements?

Radon comes from the ground, so basements most certainly get their share of radon. But is radon only in basements?

Radon is not only in basements. Although radon seeps into our homes from the earth’s soil, radon can be found in all areas of a home. Radon levels in basements, however, do tend to be higher than in other areas of the home. Radon has also been found in drinking water and some building materials.

Radon is a naturally occurring gas that is produced by the disintegration of tiny quantities of uranium in the earth’s crust.

Is Radon Only in Basements?
Radon is known as the silent killer, as we cannot smell, see, or taste radon. The only way to know if we have a radon problem in our home is by conducting a radon test.

It is odorless, undetectable, and poses a severe health risk because it is the primary cause of cancer among nonsmokers.

Because radon originates in the earth’s crust, it is more typically found in lower-ground basements.

Basements frequently have permeable walls or other access spots, making radon entry much simpler.

The fact that radon may enter a property more easily through the basement does not mean it is the sole method.

Crawl spaces are frequently used as an entry point. Even crawl areas that are lined are vulnerable to radon. Radon intrusion is also a concern in slab-built homes.

In fact, the lack of a basement can be a concern since radon can enter your living space without having a chance to evaporate into the basement first.

Even homes built with radon-resistant materials aren’t always safe. While radon-resistant materials are beneficial, they are not immune.

Radon can still get through these barriers, therefore the residence will need to be tested regularly.

What Causes Radon in the First Place?

We have learned that radon can be found in our homes, but what causes radon in the first place?

Radon is a radioactive gas that is produced naturally when radioactive metals such as uranium, thorium, and radium break down in rocks, soil, and groundwater. Radon gases come up out of the ground and seep into the cracks and crevices of cement slabs and foundations and into our homes.

Radon may enter and gather within nearly any home or structure through dirt floors, hollow block walls, foundation cracks, sump pumps, floor drain holes, joints, and foundation openings for pipes, sewers, and other utility connections.

Radon may also infiltrate houses through well water or small water systems that use groundwater as a source of supply. The gas can get trapped once inside, posing a health danger.

Do All Homes Have Radon?

All areas of the United States have some level of radon. With that said, some states have higher levels of radon than others.

The amount of radon in the air is measured in picocuries per liter, or pCi/L. A concentration of 4 pCi/L or above is deemed dangerous.

Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L are still dangerous and may be decreased in many circumstances, while it is difficult to get below 2 pCi/L.

With an average radon level of 0 pCi/L, Hawaii has the lowest radon levels of all 50 states.

Hawaiian rocks have a low uranium concentration, and most rocks near the surface are permeable, enabling air entry to dilute radon.

The state with the highest radon levels, 10.7 pCi/L, is Alaska. Every two years, Alaskan homeowners are recommended to test for radon.

The ten states with the highest levels of Radon are shown below.

  • Alaska (10.7)
  • South Dakota (9.6)
  • Pennsylvania (8.6)
  • Ohio (7.8)
  • Washington (7.5)
  • Kentucky (7.4)
  • Montana (7.4)
  • Idaho (7.3)
  • Colorado (6.8)
  • Iowa (6.1)

The ten states with the lowest levels of radon are shown below.

  • Hawaii (0)
  • Louisiana (1.1)
  • Mississippi (1.2) 
  • Florida(1.8)
  • Arizona (1.9)
  • Texas (2.1)
  • California (2.3)
  • Georgia (2.3)
  • Delaware (2.4)
  • South Carolina (2.4)

How Do I Make My House Safe From Radon?

Once you have determined that your home has unacceptable levels of radon, it’s time to take control. So how do you make your house safe from radon?

You can make your house safe from radon by utilizing a vent pipe system and fan to remove radon from under the house and vent it to the outside. This technology, often known as a soil depressurization system, does not need any substantial housing modifications.

To locate a qualified professional, contact your state radon office or one of the EPA’s national radon proficiency programs.

Technical expertise and unique abilities are required to reduce excessive radon levels. Contractors that aren’t experts in radon mitigation may exacerbate the situation.

Mitigating radon can also be done by sealing foundation cracks and other holes. Crawl space dwellings can also benefit from similar solutions.

The best system for your home is determined by its design as well as other considerations such as whether or not it has a basement.

Test your house again after installing a radon reduction system to ensure it is functioning, and consider retesting every two years to ensure radon levels remain low.

Also, after any renovation, retest your home.

While radon is safe in low concentrations outside, when it seeps inside a home, it can become concentrated to dangerous levels, putting inhabitants at risk.

The EPA advises radon mitigation for all houses with radon gas levels of 4 pCi/L or greater, as measured by picocuries per liter (pCi/L).

Because radon gas is somewhat heavier than air, it tends to collect in basements and crawl spaces, but whole-house HVAC systems disperse the gas throughout the house.

As a result, even a second story might have dangerously high radon levels.


Trina Greenfield, Author
SmackDown Media LLC

About the Author:
Trina Greenfield, the owner of SmackDown Media LLC, is passionate about providing information to those interested in the air quality in and around their homes. Trina writes content about things she’s passionate about, such as safe, in-home air, educational platforms for children and adults, as well as all things family-related.