Why you should have your own radon test performed when buying a home.
These are two radon tests from the same home during two separate sales. The original test was on:
The second on:
The first test was “good” or below the EPA action level, the second well above.
If you are buying a home it makes good sense to test for radon before closing. Most often radon testing is a part of the home inspection clause in the purchase contract. The AARST (The American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologist) recommends testing for radon prior to every transfer of a residential dwelling to a new owner. Even if a home has been tested before, the new owner may use the dwelling differently.
- The main source of high-level radon pollution in buildings is surrounding uranium-containing soil such as granite, shale, phosphate and pitchblende.
- Radon enters a home through cracks in walls, basement floors, foundations and other openings. It may also contaminate the water supply, especially in private wells.
- Over a person’s lifetime, particulate radon progeny can enter the lungs, attach themselves, and may eventually lead to lung cancer. Radon is believed to cause between 15,000 and 21,000 U.S. deaths from lung cancer annually.
- A level of four picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the level at which remedial action should be taken.
- Radon has been identified in every state. An estimated 6% (one in 15) of homes in the United States are estimated to have elevated levels of radon. The estimated average in Connecticut is 8% (one in 12 homes).
- Smokers exposed to radon substantially increase their risk of lung cancer in comparison to exposed non-smokers.
- It is possible for one home to have elevated levels of radon while a neighboring home does not. Testing is the only way to determine levels of radon in a structure. Testing can be done through do-it-yourself home test kits or through a professional testing firm.
- Home test kits labeled “meets EPA requirements” should be used. Both long-term and short-term tests can be done.
- Short-term tests remain in the home for two to 90 days, depending on the device. “Charcoal canisters,” “alpha track,” “electret ion chamber,” “continuous monitors,” and “charcoal liquid scintillation” detectors are the most common short-term testing devices.
- Long-term tests remain in the home for more than 90 days. “Alpha track” and “electret” detectors are commonly used for this type of testing. A long-term test gives a more accurate annual average radon level than a short-term test, because radon levels vary day to day and season to season.
- Radon levels can be lowered through a variety of repairs, from sealing cracks in floors and walls to changing the flow of air into the building.
- Sub-slab depressurization uses pipes and fans to remove radon gas from beneath the concrete floor and foundation before it can enter the building. Radon is vented above the roof, where it safely disperses.
- Soil depressurization is used to ventilate the soil surrounding the home so that radon is drawn away before it can enter the structure.
- Repairs to decrease radon levels should be made by an EPA or state-certified contractor.
Principles of a radon reduction system
MYTH: Homes with radon problems can’t be fixed.
Radon Level a
|Lifetime Risk of Lung Cancer Death (per person) from Radon Exposure in Homes b|
|pCi/L||Never Smokers||Current Smokers c||General Population|
|20||36 out of 1,000||26 out of 100||11 out of 100|
|10||18 out of 1,000||15 out of 100||56 out of 1,000|
|8||15 out of 1,000||12 out of 100||45 out of 1,000|
|4||73 out of 10,000||62 out of 1,000||23 out of 1,000|
|2||37 out of 10,000||32 out of 1,000||12 out of 1,000|
|1.25||23 out of 10,000||20 out of 1,000||73 out of 10,000|
|0.4||73 out of 100,000||64 out of 10,000||23 out of 10,000|
|a Assumes constant lifetime exposure in homes at these levels.|
b Estimates are subject to uncertainties as discussed in Chapter VIII of the risk assessment.
c Note: BEIR VI did not specify excess relative risks for current smokers.
National Academy of Sciences Report on Radon