January is Radon Awareness Month
Learn About Risk From Radon
You can’t see, smell or taste radon, but it could be present at a dangerous level in your home. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers in America and claims the lives of about 21,000 Americans each year. In fact, the EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General urge all Americans to protect their health by testing their homes, schools and other buildings for radon.
Exposure to radon is a preventable health risk and testing radon levels in your home can help prevent unnecessary exposure. If a high radon level is detected in your home, you can take steps to fix the problem to protect yourself and your family.
HOW TO TEST YOUR HOME
You can’t see radon, but it’s not hard to find out if you have a radon problem in your home. All you need to do is test for radon. Testing is easy, cheap and should be preformed by a qualified/certified professional
The amount of radon in the air is measured in “picocuries per liter of air,” or “pCi/L.” There are many kinds of low-cost “do it yourself” radon test kits you can get through the mail and in some hardware stores and other retail outlets. If you prefer, or if you are buying or selling a home, you can hire a qualified tester to do the testing for you. You should first contact your state radon office about obtaining a list of qualified testers. You can also contact a private radon proficiency program for lists of privately certified radon professionals serving your area.
The quickest way to test is with short-term tests. Short-term tests remain in your home for two days to 90 days, depending on the device. “Charcoal canisters,” “alpha track,” “electret ion chamber,” “continuous monitors,” and “charcoal liquid scintillation” detectors are most commonly used for short-term testing. Because radon levels tend to vary from day to day and season to season, a short-term test is less likely than a long-term test to tell you your year-round average radon level. If you need results quickly, however, a short-term test followed by a second short-term test may be used to decide whether to fix your home (see also page 7 under Home Sales).
Long-term tests remain in your home for more than 90 days. “Alpha track” and “electret” detectors are commonly used for this type of testing. A long-term test will give you a reading that is more likely to tell you your home’s year-round average radon level than a short-term test.
RADON AND HOME SALES
More and more, home buyers and renters are asking about radon levels before they buy or rent a home. Because real estate sales happen quickly, there is often little time to deal with radon and other issues. The best thing to do is to test for radon NOW and save the results in case the buyer is interested in them. Fix a problem if it exists so it won’t complicate your home sale. If you are planning to move, review EPA’s pamphlet “Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon,” which addresses some common questions (www.epa.gov/radon/pubs/realestate.html). You can also use the results of two short-term tests done side-by-side (four inches apart) to decide whether to fix your home.
During home sales:
• Buyers often ask if a home has been tested, and if elevated levels were reduced.
• Buyers frequently want tests made by someone who is not involved in the home sale. Your state radon office (www.epa.gov/radon/whereyoulive.html) can assist you in identifying a qualified tester.
• Buyers might want to know the radon levels in areas of the home (like a basement they plan to finish) that the seller might not otherwise test.
Today many homes are built to help prevent radon from coming in. Building codes in your state or local area may require these radon-resistant construction features. If you are buying or renting a new home, ask the owner or builder if it has radon-resistant features. The EPA recommends building new homes with radon-resistant features in high radon potential (Zone 1) areas. Even if built radon-resistant, every new home should be tested for radon after occupancy. If you have a test result of 4 pCi/L or more, consult a qualified mitigator (http://www.epa.gov/radon/fixyourhome.html) to estimate the cost of upgrading to an active system by adding a vent fan to reduce the radon level. In an existing home, the cost to install a radon mitigation system is about the same as for other common home repairs.
Who Can Fix My Home?
If you are interested in finding a qualified radon service professional to mitigate (fix) your home:
Contact your state radon contact to determine what are, or whether there are, requirements associated with providing radon services in your state. Some states maintain lists of contractors available in their state or they have proficiency programs or requirements of their own.
Contact one or both of the two privately-run national radon certification programs (listed below alphabetically) that are offering the following in radon testing and mitigation:
- Proficiency listing