At Inspections+ we labor for the health and safety of our clients. Radon can be a major concern for the safety of our clients. Below is some helpful information related to radon and radon testing. If you are concerned about radon in your home, please contact us.
What is Radon?
Radon is a byproduct of the naturally present uranium that breaks down in the earth’s soil, bedrock and water. It is radioactive and causes cancer in the human body when we are exposed to high levels of it over time. It’s in all the air we breathe on earth and will always be here. Just like other harmful naturally occurring elements, we need to be aware of where radon is concentrated naturally and if we are concentrating it artificially within our homes.
Note: It is relatively simple with today’s technology to mitigate radon-rich air entering a home if it is an issue. A custom designed series of plastic vent pipes and fans can effectively “through-vent” the air below a slab to bypass the breathable air within a home.
A comparable concept that may be more easily understood is the way UV rays from the sun affect us and how we address it practically. Ultra violet rays from the sun are radioactive and damage our skin cells to cause cancer when exposed to too much of it.
The Solution: We wear sunblock and have developed technologies to test for and understand better the UV activity coming from the sun and how it affects us. We also take measures to protect our eyes and especially the sensitive skin of our children from the sun’s harmful, radioactive rays.
Because you cannot see, smell or taste radon gas, you must test for it when purchasing a home to begin educating yourself on the levels at the property.
What you should know about Radon
- You should test for radon.
Testing is the only way to find out about your home’s radon level. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing of all homes below the third floor for radon.
- You can fix a radon problem.
If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to fix a radon problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels. We can recommend mitigation professionals certified by the EPA if necessary as we are only involved in the testing process.
- If you are buying a home.
The EPA recommends that you obtain the radon level in the home you are considering buying. An EPA publication “The Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide” is available through most State Health Departments or Regional EPA offices listed in your local phone book. EPA also recommends that you use a certified or state licensed radon tester to perform the test. If elevated levels are found it is recommended that these levels be reduced. In most cases, a professional can accomplish this at reasonable cost or homeowner installed mitigation system that adheres to the EPA’s approved methods for reduction of radon in a residential structure.
Click this link to view EPA Radon Map for Massachusetts
What are the Risk Factors?
The EPA, Surgeon General and The Center for Disease Control, have all agreed that continued exposure to Radon gas can cause lung cancer.
In fact, there position on the matter is that all homes should be tested for radon gas exposure, and all homes testing over 4 pCi/L should be fixed.
How Does Radon Enter the Home?
Typically the air pressure inside your home is lower than the pressure in the soil around your home’s foundation.
Due to this difference, your house acts like a vacuum, drawing radon gas in through foundation cracks and other openings of your home.
Radon may also be present in well water and can be released into the air in your home when water is used for showering and other household uses.
Potential Entry Points:
- Cavities inside walls
- Cracks in solid floors
- Construction joints
- Cracks in walls
- The water supply
- Gaps in suspended floors
- Gaps around service pipes
How to Test Your Home
You can’t see radon, but it’s not hard to find out if you have a radon problem in your home. All you need to do is test for radon. Testing is easy and should only take a few minutes of your time.
The amount of radon in the air is measured in “picoCuries per liter of air,” or “pCi/L.” Sometimes test results are expressed in Working Levels (WL) rather than picoCuries per liter (pCi/L) (4 pCi/L equals to 0.016 WL). There are many kinds of low-cost “do-it-yourself” radon test kits you can get through the mail and in hardware stores and other retail outlets. If you prefer, or if you are buying or selling a home, you can hire a qualified tester to do the testing for you. You should first contact your state radon office about obtaining a list of qualified testers. You can also contact a private radon proficiency program for lists of privately certified radon professionals serving your area. For links and information, visit www.epa.gov/radon/proficiency.html.
How to Test for Radon
There are Two General Ways to Test for Radon:
The quickest way to test is with short-term tests. Short-term tests remain in your home for two days to 90 days, depending on the device. “Charcoal canisters,” “alpha track,” “electret ion chamber,” “continuous monitors,” and “charcoal liquid scintillation” detectors are most commonly used for short-term testing. Because radon levels tend to vary from day to day and season to season, a short-term test is less likely than a long-term test to tell you your year-round average radon level. If you need results quickly, however, a short-term test followed by a second short-term test may be used to decide whether to fix your home (see Home Sales).
Long-term tests remain in your home for more than 90 days. “Alpha track” and “electret” detectors are commonly used for this type of testing. A long-term test will give you a reading that is more likely to tell you your home’s year-round average radon level than a short-term test.
How To Use a Test Kit:
Follow the instructions that come with your test kit. If you are doing a short-term test, close your windows and outside doors and keep them closed as much as possible during the test. Heating and air-conditioning system fans that re-circulate air may be operated. Do not operate fans or other machines which bring in air from outside. Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating only for short periods of time may run during the test. If you are doing a short-term test lasting just 2 or 3 days, be sure to close your windows and outside doors at least 12 hours before beginning the test, too. You should not conduct short-term tests lasting just 2 or 3 days during unusually severe storms or periods of unusually high winds. The test kit should be placed in the lowest lived-in level of the home (for example, the basement if it is frequently used, otherwise the first floor). It should be put in a room that is used regularly (like a living room, playroom, den or bedroom) but not your kitchen or bathroom. Place the kit at least 20 inches above the floor in a location where it won’t be disturbed — away from drafts, high heat, high humidity, and exterior walls. Leave the kit in place for as long as the package says. Once you’ve finished the test, reseal the package and send it to the lab specified on the package right away for analysis. You should receive your test results within a few weeks.
EPA Recommends the Following Testing Steps:
Step 1. Take a short-term test. If your result is 4 pCi/L or higher take a follow-up test (Step 2) to be sure.
Step 2. Follow up with either a long-term test or a second short-term test:
- For a better understanding of your year-round average radon level, take a long-term test.
- If you need results quickly, take a second short-term test.
The higher your initial short-term test result, the more certain you can be that you should take a short-term rather than a long-term follow up test. If your first short-term test result is more than twice EPA’s 4 pCi/L action level, you should take a second short-term test immediately. If you followed up with a long-term test: Fix your home if your long-term test result is 4 pCi/L or more. If you followed up with a second short-term test: The higher your short-term results, the more certain you can be that you should fix your home. Consider fixing your home if the average of your first and second test is 4 pCi/L or higher. (see also Home Sales)
What Your Test Results Mean
The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L, and about 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. The U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels. While this goal is not yet technologically achievable in all cases, most homes today can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below.
Sometimes short-term tests are less definitive about whether or not your home is above 4 pCi/L. This can happen when your results are close to 4 pCi/L. For example, if the average of your two short-term test results is 4.1 pCi/L, there is about a 50% chance that your year-round average is somewhat below 4 pCi/L. However, the EPA believes that any radon exposure carries some risk — no level of radon is safe. Even radon levels below 4 pCi/L pose some risk, and you can reduce your risk of lung cancer by lowering your radon level.
If your living patterns change and you begin occupying a lower level of your home (such as a basement) you should retest your home on that level.
Even if your test result is below 4 pCi/L, you may want to test again sometime in the future.
How to Lower the Radon Level in Your Home
Since there is no known safe level of radon, there can always be some risk. But the risk can be reduced by lowering the radon level in your home.
There are several proven methods to reduce radon in your home, but the one primarily used is a vent pipe system and fan, which pulls radon from beneath the house and vents it to the outside. This system, known as a soil suction radon reduction system, does not require major changes to your home. Sealing foundation cracks and other openings makes this kind of system more effective and cost-efficient. Similar systems can also be installed in houses with crawl spaces. Radon contractors can use other methods that may also work in your home. The right system depends on the design of your home and other factors.
Ways to reduce radon in your home are discussed in EPA’s “Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction.” You can get a copy from your state radon office.
The cost of reducing radon in your home depends on how your home was built and the extent of the radon problem. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs. The average house costs about $1,200 for a contractor to fix, although this can range from about $800 to about $2,500. The cost is much less if a passive system was installed during construction.
You can read about Radon Mitigation Methods Here: https://www.radonsystems.com/examples/index.html
Important Radon Links
Consumers Guide to Radon Reduction
For Further Information
EPA’s main radon page (www.epa.gov/radon)
Includes links to hotlines, radon proficiency programs and more.
EPA Regional Offices (www.epa.gov/iaq/whereyoulive.html)
Check the above Web site for a listing of your EPA regional office.
These hotline numbers are subject to change. For up-to-date information call (800) 438-4318.
Operated by the National Safety Council in partnership with EPA. Order radon test kits by phone.
Operated by the National Safety Council in partnership with EPA. For live help with your radon questions, including how to fix your home.
Spanish language hotline, operated by the National Alliance for Hispanic Health in partnership with EPA. For general help with radon, testing, and mitigation questions, and free test kits.
Indoor Air Quality Information Clearinghouse, operated by an EPA contractor. For general radon and indoor air quality information and copies of EPA publications.
Safe Drinking Water Hotline, privately operated under contract to EPA. For general information on drinking water, radon in water, testing and treatment, and radon drinking water standards.
Radon Fix-It Hotline, operated by the National Safety council in partnership with EPA. For general information on how to mitigate your home.
State Radon Offices (www.epa.gov/iaq/whereyoulive.html)