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What is Radon?

By: Johnny RealEstate

Radon build-up might be toxic to your health
Radon build-up might be toxic to your health

Disclaimer: This information is reliable but not guaranteed.

What is radon?

You can see the official EPA Radon Website or download their 44 page printable Home Buyers and Home Sellers Guide to Radon.

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that can accumulate in the basement of your home and according to the EPA, is known to potentially pose health hazards, especially for cigarette smokers, by increasing the chance for the occupants to develop lung cancer. Radon build-up can develop in any home and occurs naturally beneath your basement’s concrete slab from a decaying metallic radioactive element in the earth known as radium. This gas rises from the ground, through holes and cracks within the basement foundation and mixes into the air, while your home traps the deadly gas inside itself. It can even be brought into your home through your well water. Radon cannot be gauged by town, region or neighborhood, only by each individual home.

The the EPA declares that the average estimated radon level for homes right now is about 1.3 pCi/L. They also say that a radon level higher than the levels of the air of the great outdoors, which is about 1.3 pCi/L to 0.4 pCi/L, is deemed unhealthy, but current technological means still cannot reasonably keep radon levels at that level for every home. They recommend that levels should be targeted between 2 to 4 pCi/L, and also say that anything between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L are not declared “toxic”, but you should consider reducing to 2 pCi/L, and any levels above 4 pCi/L are considered above the safe level and should be reduced immediately.

If you are a home seller you should have a recent radon test (within 2 years) for that home, and even if it has been recently tested, the home buyer could request that the home be tested again anyway, like for reasons if there has been any recent home renovations, the new occupants plan on living on a floor below the one tested, or procedures or steps were not followed during testing. If you are a home buyer you should request from the home seller the radon results of any previous tests, who performed them, where they were taken and if there has been any recent HVAC or renovations to the air duct system.

Short term testing vs. long term testing

Short-term testing is usually the quickest way of testing, averaging 2-90 days depending on the device used, but is unable to give you a detailed average of your house’s year round radon levels and therefor sometimes requiring you to do multiple tests at once to achieve more accurate results. Long-term testing is known for giving you a better result by recording a more accurate “year-round” radon level, and can record a more detailed record of multiple radon readings in “real-time”, but the test takes more time to perform, usually 90 days or longer.

Radon Detectors/Radon Test Kits

State or local officials can help you in acquiring a radon detector or test kit, and also some home improvement stores carry home radon testing equipment. There are two kinds of radon detectors: passive and active. Passive detectors consist of charcoal canisters and liquid scintillation detectors, but are known to not constantly or “actively” monitor radon levels at any given moment. Active radon detectors consists of alpha tracks, and the electret ion chamber, and they read the radon levels in “real-time” giving you a more detailed and accurate reading, like any sudden or unusual decrease or increase in radon levels during that testing period.

Testing

During the testing make it known to other residents of the home how crucial the test is and not to interfere with the conditions of the testing process, the testing device, and also be sure to perform the test for at least a minimum of 48 hours.

If you decide to gets hands on and try to tackle the radon testing yourself, you should completely follow the instructions which come with the testing device. Keep the windows and doors closed, except for normal entry/exit of the home, and also to record the start and finish dates and times of the testing process. The device should be placed above the floor, away from the exterior walls and in an area where it should receive the least amount of disturbance from high heat and humidity, household members and pets, and any drafts. It is recommended that if you’re doing a short-term test lasting less than four days, you should not conduct the test during periods of inclement weather such as high winds or storms. Once finished the device should be sealed and shipped to the lab immediately to analyze the radon device’s recordings.

You could always hire a radon professional; they should know the specifics of the science, the variables of the testing, perform an independent result, answer any questions and explain the importance of certain steps during the radon testing process. Make sure you see some sort of ID or official credentials so you know that you’re dealing with a bona-fide radon expert, and if in doubt, you can always contact you state or local officials concerning radon.

More Resources

Radon Resources is also another website full of information regarding what radon is and how to deal with and/or test for high radon levels.