What is radon?
Radon is an invisible and odorless gas that seeps into different structures (basements, crawl spaces, and slabs) through cracks in the floor, joints as well as unsealed gaps around pipes and electrical wires. The only way to know if radon is present in an area is to test for it. Radon is the second leading cause for lung cancer following cigarette smoking. Radon in indoor air is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States. For smokers the risk of lung cancer is significant due to the synergistic effects of radon and smoking. Living in a home with a radon level of 4 pCi/L equivalent to smoking eight cigarettes per day or getting 200 chest x-rays per year. Living in a home with a radon level of 20 pCi/L is like smoking two packs of cigarettes per day.
Should I get my house tested?
Testing is the only way to know if your home has a radon problem. That first short term test is crucial. It is very important that the testing device is set up properly and closed home conditions are maintained throughout the entire testing period. New and old construction, and structures with or without basements, can all have high radon amounts. If you suspect your structure may have radon, it is suggested to have it tested with a short term or long term testing kit. Homes should be tested every two years to five years.
How does the testing process work?
Testing will occur over a 48 hour period. During this time, a measurement device will be placed in your home. This measurement device will monitor every hour for the 48 hours to determine the present levels of radon in your structure.
In a real-estate transaction, the test should be conducting in the lowest potentially livable area of the home (potential basement Living room or bedroom even if it is not currently finished as so). The test should not be placed in a utility room, laundry room, closet, kitchen, garage or other places with high humidity. The test should be place in the breathing zone twenty inches off the floor, one foot away from exterior walls and three feet away from windows and doors. Non real-estate tests should be conducted in the lowest lived level of the home. A short term test is great way for a quick snapshot into your homes radon level. Once the testing is complete, I will be able to discuss your report and levels with you.
What levels of radon are considered safe?
No level of radon is completely safe. Radon is found in outdoor air and in the indoor air of buildings of all kinds. EPA recommends homes to be fixed if the radon level is 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or more. EPA also recommends to consider fixing your home if radon levels between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L.
4 pCi/L+ Mitigate your home
2-3.9 pCi/L consider mitigating your home (do a long term test)
0-2.0 pCi/L Radon level is considered low (retest every 2-5 years)
Depending on the results of the first short term test, I would highly consider a long term test. Radon levels fluctuate, day and night, and even with differing weather patterns. The test results below show how much radon levels can fluctuate over a one week period, all the way from 3.1 pCi/L to a 21.1 pCi/L, averaging a 9.4 pCi/L. This test came from a newer built home with a passive radon system. All homes built after 2009 should have a passive radon system installed, letting radon gas naturally vent from the basement to above the roofline.
This is an example of what a radon measurement test might look like. Here you see the high spikes of radon concentration that were associated with high southernly winds. The wind exerted more pressure on the radon vent pipe above the roof forcing radon air from the below the sub-slab into the basement, the exact opposite as it was intended to do. Each and every home has its own radon concentration no matter foundation type, new, old, full basement, slab on-grade, crawlspace, lots of cracks in the floor to a pristine concrete slab.