We've lived in this house since 2001. Only recently while I was spending more time in the basement building a workbench that I began to think about the radon levels.
There are tons of links for Radon in cyberspace but briefly Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is naturally occuring. It is a daughter element of Uranium. It is radio active (alpha radiation). It can cause lung cancer. Radon makes its way into your house by migrating through the rock and soil into the basement through cracks and holes (like sumps). Radon is measured in picoCuries.
Since I work in the environmental field I called and ordered two radon test kits for air. Radon can also be tested in groundwater, particually important for homes with private wells as the water source. I also have a well, but have not tested the water yet. Anyway, I ordered two because the basement is partitioned and wanted throrough sampling.
The sample is very easy to collect. Each test kit has two small vials (about 3 inches tall, 1 inch diameter) with a carbon trap inside each one. Just pop open the vials, set 4 inches apart up on a chair. Depending on humidity you let sit undisturbed for 48 to 96 hours. Box it up and mail back to the lab with a check for 35$ per kit.
About a week later the sample results came back and I was happy to find out that there was only 1 picoCurie detected in the basment air. So working down there wont kill me.
Maine is known for it's high radon levels. Luckily my local geology is keeping the radon at bay. Clayey soils and a high water table are keeping the gas from entering my space.
Everyone that owns a home should test for radon. Its cheap and easy. If you want to order a radon test kit let me know and I can send you the contact info of where I got mine (unless of course you can make it out in the photo).