For many people, the idea of testing their indoor air for radon is a new one. They may not know what radon is or how it can affect their health. Because many homes have unsafe levels of this gas, it is an important subject to understand.
Radon is a radioactive gas that can cause cancer. After smoking, it’s the second-highest cause of lung cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that radon causes 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year. So it’s important to know if one’s home has elevated levels of radon and what can be done to reduce those levels if they are high.
Radon comes from the breakdown of uranium in rock and soil. In New England, the Appalachians, and much of the Northern Midwest states, radon levels are higher than in coastal Atlantic states, the Deep South, southern Midwest states and much of the West. But because there are pockets of higher radon exposure even in states that generally have low levels, it is very wise for homeowners across the country to test their indoor air for radon.
How Does Radon Get Into the Home?
Once radon leaks from uranium deposits in the earth, it seeps into homes through the tiniest of openings, such as:
- Solid floor/slab cracks
- Wall cracks
- Joints in home construction
- Water supplies
- Gaps around pipes coming into the home
Exposure will normally be higher in lower floors, such as basements or ground floors.
How Are Radon Tests Done?
You will be asked to collect air samples from your home with your windows and outside doors closed. If you have a multi-level home or basement, it would be wise to take samples from more than one level.
A radon testing company like ETR Laboratories can then use these air samples to determine the home’s exposure. The amount of radon is expressed in picocuries per liter of air, abbreviated as pCi/L.
How Much Radon Exposure Is Too Much?
The EPA estimates that the average radon level indoors is about 1.3 pCi/L and that the level in outside air is normally 0.4 pCi/L.
The EPA provides a guideline on the levels of exposure that should prompt a homeowner to modify their home to reduce radon levels. If the result is 4 pCi/L or higher, the homeowner is advised to implement modifications to reduce levels. If the level is 2 pCi/L but less than 4, a home modification should be considered.
Most homes can get their levels to 2 pCi/L or lower with the radon reduction technology that exists today.
It is becoming more common today that home buyers will ask about radon levels in the home before finalizing a sale. Knowing the radon in your home is at or below acceptable levels can help a sale go through, especially in states that typically have higher levels.
Removing Radon from Household Air
The basic idea of a radon reduction system for your home is the installation of fans and vents to pull radon gas from beneath the house and then channel that gas to the outside. Foundation or wall cracks should be sealed, along with other openings that might admit radon. This system is normally not very expensive for most homes.
Radon in Water
It is also possible for your home’s water supply to contain radon. When this occurs, the occupants of the home will be exposed to this gas as it is released into the air during showering or other household uses. If the radon comes from a private well, water treatment before the water enters the home can remove radon from your supply.
If you are concerned about radon exposure in your home, ETR Laboratories can help you. We have water tests plus air tests with one vial for a single-level home or two vials for a multi-level home. We will be glad to discuss the meaning of your results when the test is done. Call us at (800) 344-9977 to get started.