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Seismic Activity May Alter Radon Levels

Seismic Activity May Alter Radon Levels - Image 1

Seismic Activity May Alter Radon Levels

The 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rocked the mid-Atlantic states this August has geologists and radon experts talking about the seismic activity's effect on radon levels. Geologists involved in predicting seismic events have discovered that sudden spikes in radon emissions from the soil can indicate that an earthquake is about to occur. It's also very likely that radon emissions may change following seismic events.

Uncommon Earthquake

When tectonic plates shift suddenly after being forced together for a period, it causes a release of stored energy: an earthquake. Earthquakes are common on the west coast, California, and much rarer on the east coast. The east coast earthquake that took place this August was an unexpected occurrence that many people are still talking about today.

Although the epicenter of the quake was located near Louisa, VA between Charlottesville and Richmond, tremors were felt as far south as Chapel Hill, NC and north into New England.

Earthquakes Effect Radon

In the past, geologists have noted how seismic activity has affected wells by altering the flow of subterranean water. It's also very possible that radon levels may be affected by seismic activity. Houses that tested with low levels of radon exposure may show hazardous levels of radon in response to seismic activity.

In a paper published in 2003, two Israeli researchers discovered that a surge in radon emissions in a certain area increased the chances that an earthquake would occur near that area within a few days. Other research revealed that radon gas concentration increased in water as well as in air prior to an earthquake.

These findings make sense when you consider that radon is an invisible, odorless and radioactive gas that is emitted naturally from rocks and soil. As the earth's crust is crushed and strained prior to an earthquake, radon gas is released from trapped areas as new cracks and openings are made.

Importance of Retesting for Radon

Radon is the leading cause of cancer after smoking, killing over 21,000 people in the U.S. each year. The U.S. Dept. of Environmental Protection (U.S. DEP) strongly recommends that every home and occupied building be tested and mitigated to avoid hazardous exposure levels.

Because seismic activity has been shown to alter radon levels, it's wise to retest radon levels yearly, even after a radon abatement system has been installed. Affordable radon test kits are available from hardware stores, home centers and online sources.


National Radon Defense is proud to provide radon test kits for homeowners to use; they can also get a precise radon reading using their own specialized equipment. Some localities even provide free test kits through local health and safety programs.


Because radon testing is affordable, reliable, and easy to perform, there's no reason not to complete this test. The U.S. DEP recommends installing a radon abatement system if the radon test shows a concentration of 4 or more picocuries per liter. Fortunately, even high concentration levels can be lowered effectively, thanks to proven mitigation techniques that capture radon-laden air and exhaust it safely into the atmosphere.