What is Radon and why should I test for it? Radon is a cancer-causing radioactive gas. You cannot see, smell or taste radon, but it may be a problem in your home. The Surgeon General and the EPA have determined that indoor radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today after smoking. Outdoors, it is too diffuse to be harmful, but when it seeps into buildings through foundations, basements, walls, slabs or crawl spaces; concentrations of radon gas build up, especially in lower levels.
It is a common misconception that certain areas of the United States are not at risk for radon. In fact, radon can be found in high levels in every state in the country; it doesn’t discriminate between new or old homes, brick or wood frame, basement or no basement. Testing is the only way to know your home’s radon levels. There are no immediate symptoms that will alert you to the presence of high radon levels. The U.S. EPA, the Surgeon General and the American Lung Association recommend having your home tested. Winter is an ideal time to test your home for radon as doors and window must be kept shut as much as possible during the test period.
Another common misconception is that multi-unit dwellings do not need to be tested for radon. Apartments, condominiums and townhomes should also be tested if they are on the first floor and/or have a basement or crawl space. Those units that begin on the second floor or above should not need testing.
Radon testing can be done by the home owner with a one-time use kit that is mailed to a lab for testing. These do it yourself kits can be purchased on line or in your local hardware store. In most cases however, including real estate transactions, homeowners and prospective homeowners prefer the testing be done by a qualified professional. Air-radon levels fluctuate naturally on a daily. It should be noted that the accuracy of the residential radon test depends upon the lack of ventilation in the house when the sample is being obtained. The occupants will be instructed not to open windows for ventilation for the duration of test, usually two days or more.
The EPA recommends mitigation for your home if the test results are 4 pCi/L or higher. Radon mitigation systems can cost between $550 and
$2,500 depending on the size of the house and type of construction. Homes with unfinished basements or crawl spaces tend to be toward the lower end of the price range.
Radon mitigation is any process used to reduce radon gas concentrations in the breathing zones of occupied buildings. Mitigation of radon in the air is accomplished through ventilation, either collected below a concrete floor slab or a membrane on the ground, or by increasing the air changes per hour in the building. One of the most effective methods of reducing radon in buildings is soil suction, which involves installing one or more pipes beneath the foundation that vent radon away from the building’s interior. This is often accompanied by the sealing of cracks through which radon can flow into the building.