Could Radon Be Present in Your Well Water?

Posted: June 19, 2017

Radon is a tasteless, colorless, odorless gas that comes from the natural breakdown of radioactive uranium in the ground. Radon can get into the air you breathe indoors and into the water you drink, and can also be found in small amounts in outdoor air.

Most of the radon in indoor air comes from soil underneath the home. As uranium breaks down, radon gas forms and seeps into the house. Radon from soil can get into any type of building - homes, offices, and schools - and build up to high levels in the air inside the building.

Radon gas can also dissolve and accumulate in groundwater from underground sources such as wells. When water that contains radon is used in the home for showering, washing dishes, and cooking, radon gas escapes from the water and goes into the air, while some radon also stays in the water. Only about 1-2 percent of radon in the air comes from drinking water. However, breathing radon increases the risk of lung cancer over the course of your lifetime.

Recent research has shown that radon occurs frequently in groundwater wells in parts of Pennsylvania. There are currently no federal standards set for the level of radon in water, however, if you get your water from a private water source, the EPA recommends testing your water for radon. The PA DEP Laboratory Accreditation program or the DEP Radon Division can direct you to laboratories which may be able to test your drinking water for radon. If your water is found to contain radon, it can be mitigated by installing a point-of-entry treatment that will remove radon from all of the water entering your home. This is usually done by a granular activated carbon filter or a device that aerates that water and removes the radon gas by releasing it to the air outside the home.

Penn State Extension presented a 40-minute webinar in May 2016 on both radon and radium in private water wells in Pennsylvania.