What is Radon – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

What is Radon – Pittsburgh

Radon is a type of element that occurs naturally in the environment and is formed by the breakdown of uranium and radium. At typical temperatures on the Earth, radon takes the form of a gas that you can’t taste, smell or see. Most homes have some level of radon in them, not just in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but also throughout the world.

Understanding How Radon is Measured

Pittsburgh RadonA unit of measurement called picoCuries per liter is used for describing radon levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) establishes guidelines for safe levels of radon in Pittsburgh and throughout the rest of the United States. As long as radon levels remain at or below 4.0 picoCuries per liter, the EPA usually does not recommend taking any action. At higher levels, radon has the potential to cause health problems and needs to be mitigated to ensure that your home is safe.

In Pennsylvania, radon is found in areas that contain deposits of rocks bearing radium and uranium. Pittsburgh and the rest of Allegheny County lie over such deposits, which break down due to the natural effects of weathering and erosion. As a result, radon gas is released into the soil beneath homes in Pittsburgh and throughout the rest of the region.

Groundwater supplies in the Pittsburgh area are also to blame for increased radon levels. If you are one of the nearly 1 million Pennsylvania residents who rely on a well, you are more likely to have high radon levels in your water. Radon enters the water in wells from granite and quartz rocks that contain uranium and radium and is then carried into Pittsburgh area homes through the plumbing.

A private radon monitoring company tested radon levels throughout southwestern Pennsylvania and found that homes in Allegheny County had an average radon level reading of 6.9 picoCuries per liter, which is above the action level for radon gas recommended by the EPA. The problem is not limited just to Pittsburgh and surrounding Allegheny County; approximately 58 percent of all zip code areas in southwestern Pennsylvania are reported to have average radon level readings above the recommended action level, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

Potential Health Risks of Radon

Breathing in air contaminated with elevated levels of radon gas can cause permanent damage to the lungs. Among nonsmokers, radon gas is the number one cause of lung cancer throughout Pittsburgh and the rest of the United States. Radon is also the second leading cause of lung cancer in smokers. Pittsburgh residents at a high risk for lung cancer due to other health problems or family history are particularly susceptible to the effects of radon.

Health problems from exposure to excessive levels of radon gas do not happen instantaneously. Homeowners in Pittsburgh can purchase home testing kits for radon levels at local hardware centers and home improvement stores, but should use caution to only purchase kits approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Finding out that your home has elevated radon levels is the first step toward eliminating the threat of this potentially deadly gas.