Radon Testing

Sources of Radon in the home

Radon gas can enter a home from the soil under the house through cracks in the concrete slab, floors, or walls and through floor drains, sump pumps, construction joints and cracks or pores in hollow-block walls. Normal pressure differences between the house and the soil can create a slight vacuum in the basement, which can draw radon from the soil into the building. The design, construction and ventilation of the home can affect the radon levels of the home.

Well water can be another source of indoor radon. Radon released by well water during showering or other activities may release radon gas into the home. Radon in water is a much smaller factor in radon exposure than radon in soil.

Radon exposure outdoors is much less of a risk than indoors because the radon is diluted to low concentrations by the large volume of air.

How can I find the radon levels in my home?

When to Test – The EPA recommends that all residences below the third floor level be tested for radon. In addition, the EPA also recommends testing all rooms in contact with the ground in schools. If you have tested your home, you should retest every two years since radon levels can change with structural changes in the home. If you decide to use a lower floor of your home, such as a basement, you should test this level before occupancy. In addition, you should always test prior to the purchase of a home.

Before you purchase

If you are thinking of buying a home, you should have a radon test done before purchase. You may want to consider including provisions in the real estate contract specifying details about the radon test. Make sure the test is done in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy. In addition, we recommend using a Professional Tester to administer your radon test, according to EPA or New York State protocols.

If Unacceptable Levels of Radon are Found

If the amount of radon measured by our Professional Testers in your home exceeds the EPA guidelines and mitigation is necessary, our National Environmental Health Association (N.E.H.A.) licensed associates at Advanced Radon Solutions will bring their knowledge and experience to work to reduce the levels of Radon in your home.

Radon is a cancer causing, radioactive gas. You cannot see it, smell it or taste it. Radon is produced by the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water. High levels of radon have been found in every state in the US. One in fifteen homes in the US has radon levels above 4pCi/L, the EPA action level.

Did you know?
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Nearly one in 15 homes in the US has a high level of indoor radon. The US Surgeon General and EPA recommend all homes be tested for radon. Homes with high radon levels can be fixed.

Health Effects of Radon

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified radon as the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Of the 155,000 lung cancer deaths annually in the United States, about 12% are due to radon exposure. The remainder are due to smoking. According to the National Academy of Sciences, radon is estimated to cause about 15,000 deaths per year, although the number could be as high as 22,000.

Many homes contain radon concentrations that are high enough to give their occupants lifetime exposures that could increase their risk of developing lung cancer. As one inhales, radon decay products in the inhaled air are deposited in the lungs. Radon and its decay products emit alpha and beta particles and gamma photons. The alpha particles are very damaging if emitted from radioactive material within the body. The alpha particles can strike sensitive lung tissue causing damage to the cells in the lungs subsequently increasing the risk of lung cancer. The risk associated with this exposure is thought to increase linearly with increasing radon concentration, so the higher the average radon level is in a house, and the longer the exposure period, the greater the risk to the occupants.

Tecnhical Information on Radon

Radon concentration in air is measured in units of picoCuries per Liter (pCi/L) or Becquerels per cubic meter (Bq/m3). The picoCurie (pCi) is a unit of radioactivity which represents one trillionth of a Curie or 2.22 nuclear-transformations / minute. The Becquerel is one nuclear-transformation / second. The New York State Department of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency use 4 pCi/L as a recommended action level. When testing indicates that the radon level in the lowest primary living area of the home is above this action level, the Department recommends that the home owner take appropriate corrective action.

There are several different kinds of radon detectors available. Two categories of detectors are short term (less than 90 days, typically 2 to 7 days) and long term which is anything from 3 to 12 months. Several factors can affect radon levels. Radon levels are known to be affected by the time of day, varying as the temperature changes during the day. They are also affected by the seasons generally rising in the winter.

The most commonly used device for making short term radon measurements in homes is the charcoal canister. Usually this device is a small metal container, about the size and shape of a can of tuna fish, that contains activated charcoal. The radon in the air is adsorbed on the charcoal and the decay products can then be measured by a laboratory to determine the concentration of radon in the air. These devices are fairly quick, inexpensive, and easy to use, but their accuracy is only ± 20%. Continuous electronic radon monitors generally produce more precise radon measurements, however they are more expensive and should only be used by professional radon testing firms. Continuous air monitors are often used in real estate transactions, because they are more tamper resistant than charcoal canisters. The New York State Department of Health recommends that the average of two charcoal canister measurements be used before making a decision to mitigate.

Long term measurements are the best way to know the annual average radon level in your home. While short term tests are useful for screening and for situations where results are needed quickly, a long term test will usually be a better indicator of the average radon level. This is because it will not be as greatly influenced by the diurnal and seasonal variations and will provide a true annual average. One of the more common types of long term detector is the Alpha Track detector or AT. Year-long measurements by AT detectors in living spaces provide adequate measurements for decision making.