Radon is something many people have a concern about in their homes, and there is a good reason. This odorless, colorless, tasteless gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. Many people know radon can find its way into our homes from the surrounding soil, but fewer people know it can also be found dissolved in water.
Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas formed when other naturally occurring elements in the soil and rocks breakdown. Radon is found around the world. Most often it is found as a gas, which can cause air quality concerns when it seeps through cracks in basements and into our homes. However, our drinking water can also flow through the soil and rocks which produce radon. This water then can become contaminated with radon.
Drinking water contaminated with radon does not carry the same health concerns that breathing radon gas does. In fact, there is currently no standard for how much radon can be found in drinking water and still be considered safe. The EPA has recommended drinking water contain no more than 300 pCi/L (PCi/L is the unit most commonly used to measure Radon levels), but that is not a law.
Radon dissolved in water becomes most dangerous when it is released into the air. This can occur anytime water is agitated such as showering, doing the dishes, or doing laundry. It is known that indoor air concentrations increase by approximately 1 pCi/L for every 10,000 pCi/L in water. The Department of Environmental Protection recommends air levels be below 4 pCi/L.
It is recommended you have your home tested for radon. If you have well water, radon tests should include groundwater from your well. More information on how to test your home for radon can be found by visiting DEP’s Radon division or by calling 717-783-3594.
If high levels of radon are found in your water, systems can be installed to remove the radon safely. Many radon mitigation companies and water treatment companies can install these filter systems in your home. If properly treated radon does not pose a threat to your health, but without treatment it can be dangerous to your health.
Sources: PennState Extension Reducing Radon in Drinking Water