Key Differences Between Radon and Asbestos

Key Differences Between Radon and Asbestos

Asbestos and radon are two dangerous materials that do not belong in your home. If you have a home inspection done, the inspector will look for evidence of both of these substances and recommend mitigative action. However, there are several key differences between asbestos and radon that you should know about, whether or not they are present in your home.


Asbestos is actually an umbrella term used to describe six different types of a particular silicate mineral. This material is characterized by long, thin fibers that often break off and float through the air, causing health problems for those who inhale them.

Meanwhile, radon is a noble gas, and it is totally invisible—colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Radon is a natural by-product of radioactive materials like uranium degrading in the ground. When the gas builds up in an enclosed space like your home, breathing it in can damage your health.


Asbestos has famously been used as a building component for decades. It’s a powerful, fire-retardant insulator, and has also been incorporated into bricks and fireplace cement. While many asbestos products have been banned in the US, the material is still used in small amounts in construction and manufacturing.

Radon has a few specific uses in the healthcare field, mainly to boost the efficacy of chemotherapy in patients with certain types of cancer. When used by trained healthcare professionals, the alpha particles emitted during radon therapy can kill some localized cancer cells. However, atmospheric radon in the home is actually a leading cause of lung cancer, and inhaling radon over a long period of time can seriously damage lung tissue.


Asbestos starts to pose a threat to your health when it is exposed to the air. If your home has aging insulation and you see asbestos lining start to pop out, contact an asbestos professional to remove it. When asbestos is moved or disturbed, especially during construction or remodeling, those silicate fibers break off and enter your air.

If you test your home for radon and discover levels in excess of 4.0 pCi/L, you have plenty of mitigation options available. Use a radon fan system in conjunction with a crawlspace vapor barrier to pull existing radon out of your home and prevent more from seeping in through your foundation.

While asbestos and radon are both highly harmful to your health, they come in different forms and require different methods of mitigation. Keep the key differences between radon and asbestos in mind as you ensure the safety of your home and preserve your long-term health.