General Radon Information

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

Lung cancer kills thousands of Americans every year, even those who have never smoked. Smoking, radon, and secondhand smoke are the leading causes of lung cancer. Although lung cancer can be treated, the survival rate is one of the lowest for those with cancer. From the time of diagnosis, between 11 and 15 percent of those afflicted will live beyond five years, depending upon demographic factors. In many cases lung cancer can be prevented; this is especially true for radon.

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.

How does exposure to radon increases your risk of developing lung cancer? As you breathe, radon enters your lungs and release small bursts of energy and particles that can damage lung tissue. Lung cancer may not occur for many years after exposure to radon. Not everyone will develop lung cancer, but your risk of developing it increases as the level of radon and the time you are exposed increases. When exposure to radon is combined with smoking or inhaling someone else’s smoke, the risk may increase dramatically. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that in the United States as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year may be caused by radon.

Radon is linked to geography. Sheared fault zones in the Appalachian region of the Eastern United States have the potential for creating anomalously high amounts of indoor radon. These fault zones, many of which have known uranium occurrences, are usually characterized by high gamma radioactivity. Factors controlling the radon concentrations at these locations are bedrock uranium concentration, high permeability, and high radon emanation. These factors may be directly attributed to the deformation process of ductile shear, known as mylonitization of the rock. During mylonitization, the uranium concentration is increased by: (1) the introduction of uranium-bearing fluids into the shear zone, or (2) volume loss, which leaves the rock relatively enriched in uranium. Grain-size reduction of uranium-bearing accessory minerals common to metamorphic and igneous rocks, such as titanite, zircon, monazite, and apatite, makes uranium available for redistribution into the foliation. This process increases the radon emanation from rock dramatically. The texture imparted to the rock during shear also increases its permeability. Oxidation of iron during deformation and subsequent weathering results in the distinctive iron "staining" characteristic of many shear zones. Iron oxides and other metal oxides scavenge uranium and radium available through the weathering processes, increase the radon emanation from the rocks and soils, and make radon readily available to local ground waters. Shear zones in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, and Maryland show anomalously high radioactivity and uranium, indoor radon, and soil radon concentrations that set them apart statistically from their unsheared host rocks.

In New Jersey, there is a particularly uranium-rich geological formation, called the Reading Prong, which stretches from Pennsylvania through northwestern New Jersey into Southern New York State. Rocks in the Reading Prong, also called the Highlands area, are mostly granites, are very old (almost one billion years), and contain high concentrations of uranium. Testing of homes built along this geologic formation has revealed high indoor levels of radon gas. Further testing in New Jersey, beyond the Reading Prong area, has shown additional areas where homes have elevated radon levels. Rocks in the Piedmont area are younger (less than 1/4 billion years) and include many sedimentary rock types, including some shales that are high in uranium. The Valley and Ridge Province also contains rock with high-uranium content. Glacial debris from the last ice age tends to be very thick in this area, which can prevent radon gas from escaping to the surface prior to its breakdown into another radioactive element. Because of the uncertainties in identifying areas of high radon and the difficulties in predicting the location of individual homes with elevated levels of radon, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recognizes radon as a statewide health issue and recommends that all homes in the state be tested for radon. If levels are elevated, residents are urged to consider remediation.

In New Jersey, a toll-free Information Line, (800) 648-0394, is maintained to provide information to the public on testing procedures and mitigation techniques. Free information packets are available upon request. The Radon Section has established regulations for the certification of radon measurement and mitigation businesses and their technical staffs to ensure the public has access to high quality radon services. By law, all companies conducting radon testing and mitigations in New Jersey must be certified by the DEP.