General Radon Information

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

Radon is a chemically inert, odorless, colorless, and tasteless naturally-occurring radioactive element found in soils and rocks that make up the earth's crust. It comes from the normal decay of radium. Because it is a gas, it can easily move through soil and water and enter the atmosphere. Radon gas has a half-life of approximately four days, after which it decays into daughter products. These solid decay products are not inert and often attach themselves to airborne particulates which may then enter the lungs. These particles with attached radon daughters may become lodged in the lungs where the radon daughters undergo rapid decay, emitting radiation that damages lung tissue.

The World Health Organization, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program have all concluded that radon is a known cancer-causing agent in humans. The National Academy of Sciences Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation VI Report (1998) concluded that radon causes between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States. The U.S. Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer in the United States - second only to smoking. For nonsmokers in this country, radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer.

"It's a quiet killer," said Rebecca "Tree" James, Mississippi Department of Health (MDH) East Central District Health Officer. "Radon is an invisible, odorless gas. People can't detect it with their senses alone."

How does radon enter your home? As air in your house heats up, it rises and leaks out of attic openings and around the upper floor windows, creating a small suction at the lowest level of the house. That suction pulls the radon out of the soil and into your house. Fortunately, there are extremely effective means of keeping radon out of your home. Qualified contractors can typically mitigate radon problems for a cost similar to that for may common home repairs such as painting or having a new water heater installed - anywhere from $800 to $2,500.

Excessive radon levels have been found in all 50 states. In Mississippi less than three percent of the homes have radon levels in excess of the EPA recommended action level of 4 picoCuries of radon per liter of air. Most of Mississippi is classed as EPA Zone 3, an area of low radon potential (probable indoor radon average below 4 pCi/L). However, all houses should be tested for radon. Even houses in areas of low radon potential can have elevated radon levels. The probability of finding radon in your home is less in low radon potential areas; however, radon levels can differ dramatically from one home to the next. The only way to know if you have radon is to test your home.

Mississippi's Radon In Schools Program tested approximately 17% of the state-supported schools (163 of 950 schools). The initial results of this program indicated about 2.3% of the schools screened had radon concentrations of 4pCi/L or above (the EPA-recommended limit). Later testing in those schools produced no results of 4pCi/L or above. The Radon in Schools Program is now concentrating on screening all schools within the school districts that produced results of 4pCi/L or greater during the initial screening of that district.

"Americans need to know about the risks of indoor radon and have the information and tools they need to take action. That's why EPA is actively promoting the Surgeon General's advice urging all Americans to get their homes tested for radon. If families do find elevated levels in their homes, they can take inexpensive steps that will reduce exposure to this risk," said Jeffrey R. Holmstead, Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

A Glossary Terms:

radioactive decay: the natural breakdown of uranium that produces in radon.

picoCurie: is one-trillionth of a Curie, or about equal to the decay of two radon atoms per minute in a liter of air.

half-life of a radioactive element: the time required for half of a given number of atoms to disintegrate, or decay.

radon daughters: short-lived new elements, products of the radioactive decay of radon, also known as radon progeny.

mitigation: "fixing a problem" or to lessen a problem.

dose: the quantity of radiation absorbed by an individual.

to irradiate: to expose tissues to radiation.