Radio-Active Radon: The Invisible Health Threat

MU Extension Southwest Region News Service

Radon is a colorless, odorless and radioactive gas caused by the natural breakdown of rocks and soils that contain uranium and radium. Radon is also the second leading cause of lung cancer, immediately behind smoking.  Cooler temperatures make winter a good time to test your home for harmful radon gas, according to Bob Schultheis, natural resource engineering specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“Testing in Missouri has shown that all counties have radon and 18 percent of all homes have radon levels above the level considered dangerous,” said Schultheis. “Not every house has radon, but the EPA recommends that every house be tested, because the levels can vary between neighboring houses.”

See for a Missouri county-by-county radon risk map.





Energy-efficient or poorly-ventilated homes are more likely to have higher radon levels, said Schultheis. This is because radon enters the home through cracks and openings in floors and walls, and through floor drains and sumps.

“The best time to test your home for radon is during cooler weather, when it is 60 degrees or less. The house should be closed up at least 12 hours before and during the test,” Schultheis said.

The most common radon detectors are charcoal canisters and alpha-track detectors. The charcoal canister units are used for short-term testing. A positive result from a short-term test is no immediate cause for panic. A long-term test (three to 12 months) using an alpha-track detector to verify continuous exposure levels should follow it.

A short-term detector is for free from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services or one can be purchased for $12-$30 at major hardware stores and home improvement centers.

If you do find a radon problem, Schultheis said, spend less time in high-concentration areas, such as basements. Don’t smoke, and when practical, ventilate the living area. It is also a good idea to keep crawl-space vents open year-round and seal all floor and wall cracks.

For more information, call the Missouri Radon Information Helpline at 866-628-9891, or go on-line to  Ask your county University of Missouri Extension center for MU Guide G1968, “Radon: An Indoor Health Hazard?”, or go on-line to

Information provided by MU Extension Southwest Region News Service.

A Journey of Seasons
A Year in the Ozarks High Country

Set in the rugged heart of the Ozark mountains, A Journey of Seasons is memoir, back-to-the-land handbook and nature guide rolled into one.  Henderson’s 20-years of living off the land and foraging in the wilderness shines in this cyclopedic work filled with nature notes, botanical musings, back-woods wisdom and just a pinch of “hillbilly” humor.  This is one journey you don’t want to miss.

Available in the Show Me Oz Bookstore

Jill Henderson is an artist, author, and the editor of Show Me Oz . Her books, The Healing Power of Kitchen Herbs, The Garden Seed Saving Guide and A Journey of Seasons can be found in the Show Me Oz Bookstore. Jill’s work has also appeared in The Permaculture Activist, The Essential Herbal, Acres USA, and Llewellyn’s Herbal Almanac.

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