General Radon Information

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

Radon is a colorless, odorless and tasteless radioactive gas that occurs naturally in most rocks and soil. It is produced by the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. Radon is harmlessly dispersed in outdoor air, but when trapped in buildings, can increase the risk of lung cancer, especially at elevated levels. It typically enters a home the same way air and other soil gases enter the home, through cracks in the foundation, floor or walls, hollow-block walls, and openings around pipes, sump pumps, and floor drains. It can also be present in some construction materials and in water from underground sources including private wells.

While most people are aware that air pollution can be hazardous to their health, many do not know that the air they breathe inside their own homes could be killing them. Millions of homes and buildings contain high levels of radon gas. Many do not even know it is present. When radon decays and is inhaled into the lungs, it releases energy that can damage the DNA in sensitive lung tissue and lead to lung cancer. In fact, prolonged exposure to high levels of radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, contributing to between 7,000 and 30,000 lung cancer deaths each year. Smokers are at higher risk of developing radon-induced lung cancer.

"We do not know how many people have died in Alabama because of high radon levels, but we do know radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, just behind tobacco smoke," Dr. Jesse C. LaPrade, Extension Environmental Specialist, said. "We do know smoking tobacco and being exposed to radon have a cumulative effect. If you smoke and you're subjected even to moderate levels of radon, the chances of developing lung cancer are much greater than if you do not have radon in your home or are exposed to low levels of radon."

According to the Surgeon General, exposure to radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. According to the EPA's 2003 Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes, radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year. Radon is not known to cause other illnesses or problems such as upper respiratory infections, colds or allergic reactions. Its only known health effect is an increased risk of developing lung cancer. However, as with those who smoke, not everyone exposed to high levels of radon will develop lung cancer, and the time between exposure and the onset of cancer may be many years.

As a service to the citizens of Alabama, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System offers short-term (2-4 days) test kits in many of the Zone 1 county Extension offices. You can also order short-term and long-term kits directly through the Radon in Alabama Web site by mail, fax or online. Long-term (3 to 12 months) test kits are also available at the Madison County Extension office for $15.00 each. Test kits can also be purchased at hardware stores and some retail stores, but will likely cost more.

The Alabama Radon Program has distributed over 2,500 radon test kits and generated sales of 1,653 test kits through the coupon discount program between October 1, 1997, to April 9, 1999. Out of 1,565 test kits analyzed, 350 tests (22%) were at or above 4.0 pCi/L. Of the tests received for analysis, Madison County had the highest percentage of homes that tested at or above 4.0 PCVL (46.7%). Colbert County had 31.75%, followed closely by Cleburne County at 30% and Jackson County at 25%.

According to a national residential radon survey completed in 1991, the average indoor radon level in the United States is 1.3 picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The average outdoor level is about 0.4 pCi/L. However, not all houses or buildings--even those in the same area or the same neighborhood--have the same radon level. The only way to find out what the radon level is in your house is to test for it.

If a test indicates an elevated level of radon, reducing the level is usually easy and inexpensive. Sometimes homeowners can do the work themselves, although it is recommended that they seek professional guidance or have the work done by a professional, EPA-certified radon mitigator.