There is concern about the possible increased risk of developing lung cancer by people exposed to elevated concentrations of Radon Gas in their homes. Testing for this gas is becoming more routine during real estate transactions and is a good idea for any homeowner. Radon levels can be reduced by various methods, some are simple others more extensive depending on concentration levels and the structure of the building itself
What is radon? Where does it come from?
Radon is a naturally occurring gas produced by the breakdown of uranium in rock, soil and water. Radon gas can move through small spaces in soil into the open air or into buildings.
Since contamination is not uniform, houses next door to each other may have different levels of radon.
How do I check my home?
Radon is a colorless, odorless gas. Testing for it requires specialized equipment and experience.
The Bug Runner uses RTCA Radon Testing Corp. of America to supply our test canisters and radon analysis. They were rated Four Stars by the consumer advocacy group, Public Citizen, approved by NYS Dept. of Health and listed with the EPA.
Why the concern about radon?
Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas. It is estimated to cause many thousands of lung cancer deaths each year. The Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths, if you smoke and your home has high radon levels your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
In outdoor air, radon is diluted to low concentrations and is usually not a danger. In enclosed spaces, like your home, radon gas can build up and become a threat to your health.
As radon decays, radioactive products are formed and cling to dust and other particles in the air. These radon decay products can get into your lungs as you breathe where they can damage lung tissue and cause lung cancer.
The danger to health increases as the level of radon and the duration of exposure increase.
How does radon get into my house?
Air pressure inside your home is usually lower than pressure in the soil around your home’s foundation. Because of this difference in pressure, your house acts like a vacuum, drawing radon in through foundation cracks and other openings. Radon may also be present in well water and can be released into the air in your home when water is used for showering and other household uses. In most cases, radon entering the home through water is a small risk compared to radon entering your home from the soil.
In a building tightly sealed against air leaks, radon gas can accumulate to dangerous levels.
What if I have already had a measurement made? How reliable is the measurement?
The amount of radon in the air is measured in “picocuries of radon per liter of air” or “pCi/L”. Sometimes test results are expressed in Working Levels, “WL” rather than pCi/L. A level of 0.02WL is usually equal to about 4 pCi/L in a typical home.
Any radon exposure has some risk of causing lung cancer. The lower the radon level in your home, the lower your family’s risk of lung cancer.
The U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels; about 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. EPA recommends fixing your home if the results of one long-term test or the average of two short-term tests taken in the lowest lived-in level of the home show radon levels of 4 pCi/L (or 0.02WL) or higher. With today’s technology, radon levels in most homes can be reduced to 2pCi/L or below.
If your first short-term test result is 4 pCi/L or higher EPA recommends that you take a second test to be sure. For a better understanding of your year-round average radon level, take a long-term test. If you need results quickly, take a second short-term test and average it with the first. The higher your initial short-term test result, the more certain you can be that you should take a short-term rather than a long-term follow-up test. If your first short-term test is several times the action level – i.e.: 10 pCi/L or higher – you should take a second short-term test immediately.
Note: Excerpts taken from the EPA Consumer’s Guide To Radon Reduction