General Radon Information

Illinois specific radon and radon level information can be found throughout this site. You will be able to find information about certified radon inspectors in Illinois, as well as detailed radon level information for every county in Illinois.

Radon - You can't see it. You can't smell it. You can't taste it.

Radon is a Class A carcinogen and the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon comes from the radioactive breakdown of naturally occurring radium found in most soils. As a gas in the soil, it enters buildings through small openings in the foundation. Since the building can hold the radon similarly to smoke trapped under a glass, indoor radon concentrations can increase to many times that of outdoor levels.

When radon undergoes radioactive breakdown, it decays into other radioactive elements called radon daughters. Radon daughters are solids, not gases, and stick to surfaces such as dust particles i n the air. If contaminated dust is inhaled, these particles can adhere to the airways of the lung. As these radioactive dust particles break down further, they release small bursts of energy which can damage lung tissue and therefore increase the risk of developing lung cancer. In general, the risk increases as the level of radon and the length of exposure increases.

Radon itself, on the other hand, is almost chemically inactive and an inhaled radon atom is very likely to be exhaled before it decays. Thus, the main health risk from radon is exposure to its decay products.

Radon is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It can be found in any kind of home, both old and new, and in any part of the country. Even houses in areas of low radon potential can have elevated radon levels. Radon levels can differ greatly from home to home, so the only way to know if your home has radon is to test for it. If your neighbor has tested for radon and does not have any, you should NOT assume that your home's radon levels are safe. Usually neither the location of the radon source or its strength (radioactivity) is known. In addition, the air spaces found in different soil types allow movement at different rates, and we seldom know what those types are 20 to 30 feet below the surface. These air spaces act as channels or dams, making it difficult to predict the radon level from one home to another, even if they are near each other. The location of ancient stream beds and of granite outcroppings (the source of much radon) also compound prediction reliability.

The USEPA action level for radon is 4.0 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). The risk of developing lung cancer at 4.0 pCi/L is estimated at about 7 lung cancer deaths per 1000 persons. Thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths annually in the United States are attributable to indoor residential exposure to radon. Either smoking or radon exposure can independently increase the risk of lung cancer. However, exposure to both greatly enhances that risk. (At exposures to 4 pCi of radon per liter of air, the lifetime lung cancer risk attributable to radon rises from 2 cases per thousand in non-smokers to 29 cases per thousand in smokers). The USEPA and IEMA recommends reducing your radon level if the concentration is 4.0 pCi/L or more. Lung cancer in humans arising from radon exposure is recognized by the following health and environmental organizations:

* American Medical Association

* U.S. Surgeon General

* U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

* U.S. Public Health Service

* U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

* Center for Disease Control

* National Academy of Science

* National Cancer Institute

* World Health Organization

While scientists can estimate the approximate lung cancer deaths per 1000 people, no single individual's risk can be estimated. Testing is relatively inexpensive, easy and is the only way to know whether you are at risk.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency Radon program staff informs Illinois citizens about the risks associated with radon and how to reduce radon levels in their homes. The Agency also licenses and regulates the individuals who provide radon measurement and mitigation to the public.