General Radon Information

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

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.

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.

Since radon was first found to be a concern in Alaska in 1986, the interest and awareness of radon as a special housing and health problem has continued to grow. "Interior Alaska has the highest proportion of homes with elevated radon concentrations as well as the individual homes with highest concentrations. In the Interior, 3% of homes within the sample population had screening levels higher than 20 pCi/l and 17.6% of homes had radon screening levels that were higher than 4 pCi/l. [...] In the Fairbanks area, homes built in the hills surrounding town with concrete slabs or basements in contact with bedrock yielded the highest radon screening levels." (Nye and Kline, 1990).

The amount of radon gas in a building is dependent upon:

Geology: The amount of uranium found in the soil beneath the building.

Driving forces: The way a building literally pulls radon from the soil beneath it, and the ease with which radon moves through the soil and into a building.

Ventilation rate of building: How well radon is diluted with air. Once radon gets into a building, the final radon concentration is dependent upon the amount of ventilation that will dilute the radon. Low ventilation rates can affect indoor radon levels, but are not the cause of a radon problem.

Residential usage patterns: Over time, the typical usage patterns of a home's residents can also greatly affect the radon levels in a home. For instance, occupants who ventilate a home often when weather permits may be exposed to lower radon concentrations on average, than if the same home were occupied by persons who keep the windows closed year-round.

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.

The Cooperative Extension Service offers 3-month radon test kits at the Fairbanks District Office of the Cooperative Extension Service, and at the office of the state specialist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The district office is located in the University Park Bldg, 1000 University Avenue, Room 138. For information on radon concerns please call the Cooperative Extension Service district office at 474-1530, or 474-7201, in the Fairbanks area, to reach Rich Seifert, the state radon information specialist. The radon test kits available through the Cooperative Extension Service cost $25 or $45 for two and are for three months of testing. Radon test kits of this type may also be available at your local Cooperative Extension Service office throughout the state. Call them for further information. Other test kits for radon, particularly short-term tests which utilize a form of charcoal for radon adsorption, are available from private companies locally.