Residential Radon Measurement (Testing)

  • Trained, licensed, and certified by the Ohio Department of Health
  • Fully bonded and insured
  • Licensing: Ohio Department of Health - Bureau of Radiation
  • America’s Home Inspecions  Licensed Radon Contractor  
  • Rick L. Schaffer  Licensed Radon Specialist  #RT784
  • Jeff E.Berling Licensed Radon Specialist #RT785

The EPA Recommends

  • If you are planning on buying a home or selling your home, have it tested for radon.
  • For new homes, ask if the builder-installed a passive radon system during construction.  
  • Fix the home if the radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.
  • Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases may be reduced.
  • Take steps to prevent interference when conducting a radon test.

Radon is a cancer-causing natural radioactive gas that can’t be seen, smelled or tasted. Its presence in residential structures can pose a danger to human health. Radon comes from the natural (radioactive) breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water and is found all over the U.S.

Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in the human lungs. As these particles break down, small bursts of energy are released and damage to lung tissue can result. Lung cancer can develop over the course of your lifetime. It should be noted that not everyone exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer.

Smoking, radon, and secondhand smoke are the leading causes of lung cancer. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in America and claims more than 20,000 lives annually.

Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into a home or building through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels. While radon problems may be more common in some areas, any home or building may have a problem. The only way to know is to test.

The amount of radon in the air is measured in “picoCuries per liter of air,” or “pCi/L.” 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.
 
It recommended to reduce the radon infiltration problem when the radon level is measured at 4 pCi/L or more. Even if your test result is below 4 pCi/L, testing again sometime in the future is usually recommended.
    
Radon reduction systems work and they are not too costly. Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by up to 99%. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.
    
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.

 

Links and Information for Radon

 

 

The following information has been extracted directly from the EPA's pamphlet titled "Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon". The complete 32-page pamphlet is available for free by either downloading or calling the EPA Hotline at 1-800-426-4791.

EPA Map of Radon Zones | Radon | US EPA
Radon Concentrations Across Ohio

EPA's Radon Homepage
United States Environmental Protection Agency

Centers for Disease Control
United States Surgeon General
National Institute of Health
National Academy of Sciences
United States Congress
National Environmental Health Association
American Lung Association
American Medical Association
World Health Organization
National Radon Safety Board

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does radon come from?
Radon comes from the natural radioactive decay of radium and uranium found in the soil beneath the house. The amount of radon in the soil depends on soil chemistry, which varies from one house to the next. Radon levels in the soil range from a few hundred to several thousands of pCi/L. The amount of radon that escapes from the soil to enter the house depends on the weather, soil porosity, soil moisture, and the suction within the house.

How does radon get into the house?
Houses act like large chimneys. As the air in the house warms, it rises to leak out the attic openings and around the upper floor windows. This creates a small suction at the lowest level of the house, pulling the radon out of the soil and into the house. You can test this on a cold day by opening a top floor window an inch. You will notice warm air from the house rushing out that opening; yet, if you open a basement window an inch, you will feel the cold outside air rushing in. This suction is what pulls the radon out of the soil and into the house. You might think caulking the cracks and the openings in the basement floor will stop the radon from entering the house. It is unlikely that caulking the accessible cracks and joints will permanently seal the openings radon needs to enter the house. The radon levels will still likely remain unchanged. Fortunately, there are other extremely effective means of keeping radon out of your home. Throughout the country, several million people have already tested for radon. Some houses tested as high as 2,000-3,000 pCi/L; yet, there hasn't been one house that could not mitigate to an acceptable level. Mitigation usually costs between $800-$2000.

What is the general procedure for testing a home for radon?
Two standard methods exist for testing a home for the presence of radon gas. Short-term testing methods are designed to provide a quick radon value. Short-term tests can be as short as 48 hours and as long as 90 days. Long-term testing methods are designed to provide an annual average of radon gas. Long-term tests run for a minimum of 90 days, and usually for 6 to 12 months. The EPA recommends performing a short-term test for radon. If that test comes back below the EPA Action Level ( 4.0 pCi/L), then no further immediate action is warranted. However, the home should be tested again after any air sealing work, heating/air conditioning system changes or foundation modifications. If the short-term test returns with a radon value of 4.0-10.0 pCi/L, the EPA recommends performing a long-term test to gauge the home's annual radon concentration. The results of the long-term test should be used to determine the necessity of radon mitigation (reduction). Another option is to conduct a second short term test if quicker results are desired. If the first short-term test returns above 10.0 pCi/L, then the EPA recommends performing a second short-term test to verify the results and using the average of the two short-term tests to determine the necessity of radon mitigation.

Where can I purchase a radon test kit?
Consumers can purchase radon test kits for their homes from a number of outlets. The Kansas Radon Program distributes short-term radon test kits through the Kansas State University Research and Extension service. Consumers can contact their count Extension office and inquire about availability and costs, which are under $10, inclusive of all costs. Instructions on how to perform a test using these kits are available at www.radon.com/radon/instructions.html. Most home improvement stores also stock or can order a variety of test kit brands. Additionally, radon test kits can be purchased directly from the manufacturers, many of whom are listed elsewhere on this website.

Are test kits for measuring radon gas accurate?
Yes. The largest source of error in radon testing does not come from the type of device used, but rather from the failure to maintain appropriate closed house conditions during the period of the test. It is important to carefully follow test kit instructions if you want accurate results. The accuracy of almost all commercially available radon measurement devices has been evaluated in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Radon Measurement Proficiency Program (RMP). This program exposed the devices to established radon levels and returned them to the company or individual for evaluation. A minimum passing requirement was that the result must have been within plus or minus 25% of the established radon levels. Most devices have better performance at the EPA guideline level of 4 picocuries per liter of air. Laboratories and measurement service providers have quality assurance programs and controls to maintain reliable performance and accurate results.

How is radon removed from homes?
The primary method of radon reduction (or mitigation) involves the installation of an Active Soil Depressurization (ASD) system. An ASD system involves the installation of a venting system that removes radon gas from the soil beneath a house's foundation. The system includes a 3- to 4-inch PVC vent pipe, a continuously running suction fan and a system indicator. The PVC vent pipe is installed through the foundation into a small pit that is dug out by hand through the insertion hole (which often has to be drilled out). The pipe is then routed either up through the house and exited through the attic and the roof or routed to the exterior of the house and up the wall with the terminus above the eave line of the house. If the vent pipe is routed through the house, the suction fan is usually installed in the attic. If the vent pipe is routed up the outside of the house, the fan is mounted near ground level. The system indicator is mounted at some visible location below the suction fan. Most systems use a simple U-tube manometer to indicate that suction is being exerted in the pipe by the suction fan. ASD systems can be adapted for use with all foundation types (basement, slab-on-grade, crawl space, or mixed foundation types) and is the most cost-effective and most efficient means of reducing elevated indoor radon.

What about radon in well water?
Underground well water can transport the radon from the soil into the house, when taking a shower, doing laundry, or washing dishes. The EPA says it takes about 10,000 pCi/L of radon in water to contribute 1.0 pCi/L of radon in air throughout the house.

What about radon in city water?
If your water comes from a municipal reservoir supply, you need not worry about radon in the water. When radon in water is stored in a reservoir for more than 30 days, the radon decays away to practically nothing. Every 3.825 days half the radon disappears through natural radioactive decay.

What is the risk of radon exposure?
Scientists believe radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer. When radon decays, it shoots off alpha particles. These are small, heavy, electrically charged, sub-atomic particles consisting of two protons and two neutrons. If an alpha particle strikes the chromosomes in a lung cell, it could alter the way that cell reproduces. Our body's immune system should recognize and destroy these mutant cells before they can multiply over the next 10 to 20 years into a recognizable cancerous growth.
Some people's immune systems are better than others. Because of these inherent differences, radon doesn't affect everyone the same.

How serious a risk is radon?
According to the following EPA radon risk chart, radon is a serious health problem.
If 1,000 people were exposed to this level over a lifetime who are:
Annual

Annual Radon Level Smokers Never Smokers
20 pCi/L 26% or 260 people 4% or 36 people could get lung cancer
10 pCi/L 15% or 150 people .2% or 18 people could get lung cancer
4 pCi/L 6% or 62 people 0.7% or 7 people could get lung cancer
2 pCi/L 3% or 32 people .4% or 4 person could get lung cancer

Do scientists agree that radon is dangerous to breathe?
There is little disagreement that breathing the hundreds of pCi/L of radon that caused thousands of uranium miners to get fatal lung cancer is definitely harmful. Many scientists disagree with the EPA about what the level of radon should be before it should be reduced.

The EPA studied the lung cancer risk of uranium miners exposed to 400 pCi/L. They assume the risk of a homeowner exposed to 4 pCi/L to be one hundredth as much. Based on this assumption, the EPA guideline level of 4 pCi/L represents a much greater risk than allowed for other environmental pollutants.

What factors should I look at in deciding whether to mitigate or not?
Cigarette smokers should keep their exposure to radon as low as possible. Smokers have eight times the risk from radon as non-smokers. If the house was tested in an infrequently used basement, it may have measured a radon level that is higher than the actual level you are exposed to, spending most of your time upstairs.

People with young children should be more concerned with the possible consequences of radon exposure 20 years from now than someone in their late sixties or seventies.

Families with a hereditary predisposition of cancer should be more concerned about radon exposure than families who don't have any history of cancer.

If you work for a company that might transfer you in the future, your employer probably will hire a relocation company to purchase your home. Today, most relocation companies insist that the house test below 4 pCi/L before they will buy it.

RADON: The odorless danger
When purchasing a home, many buyers encounter the topic of radon for the first time. What is radon and how does it affect families that live within the dwelling? In an attempt to learn more about radon, buyers are encouraged to read the EPA pamphlet titled, "Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon".

The first section of the EPA guide doesn't alleviate any fears as it says: "Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see radon. And you cannot smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home. This is because when you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, you risk of lung cancer is especially high."

The EPA and the Surgeon General are very clear in their radon recommendations: every home below the third floor should be tested for radon. Since radon is odorless and tasteless, the only way to know if radon is present in high levels in your home is to test for it.

Radon gas has been found in homes all over the United States. The EPA estimates that 1 out of every 15 homes has elevated levels of radon. Utah County has been found to be a moderate to high risk area for Radon. This means that many of the homes in our county have elevated levels of radon gas. The testing results are much higher in our area than the EPA 1 in 15 estimates. This is especially true on our bench and canyon wash areas.

Radon comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in the soil, rock, and water and gets into the air you breath. The closer your home sits to a uranium deposit, the higher the radon levels may be. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the home's foundation where your home can trap radon inside.

It was once assumed that homes with bare earth crawl spaces were a higher risk than homes with finished basements. It has been found that this is not true. The biggest factor in a home's radon level is the proximity of the home to the uranium source. Other factors such as central heat, A/C, and foundation cracks can allow more radon into the home.

The EPA has set the action level for radon mitigation at 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/l). If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to lower the radon condition. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels by calling upon professional radon mitigators. Mitigation is a process of lowering the gas level within the home and expenses are usually between $1,200-$2,500 on an average-sized single family dwelling. The mitigation expenses should be viewed as an investment for safer indoor air quality.

Testing for radon gas can be performed with either do-it-yourself test kits available from the Health Department, or by trained radon measurement professionals. Using a professional helps ensure that the proper EPA testing protocols have been followed and that the results accurately reflect the radon levels in the home during the testing period.

Testing can be done in various ways. When buying a home, time is of the essence, so the electronic Constant Radon Monitor (CRM) is the testing unit of choice. This testing device takes regular readings throughout a 48-hour minimum testing period.

A great, free resource is the EPA's previously mentioned pamphlet titled, "Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon." The complete 32-page pamphlet is available for free by calling the EPA Hotline at 800/490-9198 and requesting document #EPA402R93003.

If you are selling a home, the EPA recommends that home sellers test their homes before putting them on the market and, if necessary, lower the radon levels. Sellers should save the test results and all information about steps that were taken to fix any elevated radon levels. This could be a positive selling point.

If you are buying a home, the EPA recommends that you obtain the indoor radon level in a home you are considering buying. Ask the seller for radon test results. If the home has a radon reduction system, ask the seller for information about the system. If the home has never been tested, it is best to test before purchasing the home.

Amazingly, homes which are next to each other can still have different indoor radon levels. While elevated radon levels may be more common in some areas, any home may have a high level. Testing your home is the only way to find out what your radon levels are.

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