Radon gas does not have a smell. It is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and invisible to the human eye. If you have high levels of radon in your home, you won’t notice any immediate adverse effects. However, long-term exposure to radon gas can lead to lung cancer. Radon overexposure is the second-leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking.

If You Can’t Smell It, How Is Radon Detected?

Since there’s no smell associated with radon, you may be wondering how people first detected it in homes. Testing for radon in homes and other enclosed spaces didn’t begin in earnest until after a 1984 incident involving a man named Stanley Watras.

Watras was helping to build the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant in Pennsylvania, and he began setting off the radiation monitors that had been installed at the facility. However, there was no radioactive material at the plant yet. Watras’ home was tested, revealing that radon levels in his home were at 2,700 pCi/L. To put that in perspective, the EPA suggests taking action to remove radon from a building if levels are at or above 4.0 pCi/L.

Although it’s rare for radon levels to be as high as they were in Watras’ home, nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. (and 1 out of 3 homes in northern Illinois ) have radon levels over 4.0 pCi/L.

It may not be possible to do a smell test for radon gas, but you can purchase a self-test kit or hire a professional to test the radon levels in your home. The EPA and Surgeon General recommend testing all homes for radon every two years. Since you can’t taste, see, or smell radon, testing is the only way to know for sure if this radioactive gas is present in your building.

What Should You Do If Testing Reveals Radon in Your Home?

Don’t panic if your test results reveal that radon levels in your home are higher than 4.0 pCi/L. It is possible to reduce the levels of radon gas in your home using a radon mitigation system. If you’re in the greater Chicago area, DuPage Radon Contractors can install a radon removal system that will safely discharge radon gas above your roof line, where you won’t breathe it in.

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