Radon Testing – How to Find Out If Your Home Has High Radon Levels

Radon is a colorless, odorless gas that can lead to lung cancer. Testing your home for radon is the only way to know if you have elevated levels of this poisonous substance.

Radon Testing

Radon Testing Colorado Springs can be conducted by professionals or with a do-it-yourself kit. When performing a test, make sure to follow the directions carefully.

Radon is a radioactive gas that can increase your risk of lung cancer. It comes from the ground and moves through soil, entering homes through cracks in the foundation. It can also seep through water systems from wells. Radon levels can vary greatly between different areas of the country. Some homes are more prone to high levels of radon than others. The EPA maintains a map showing radon levels in different parts of the country.

Radon testing is the only way to know whether your home has elevated radon levels. The EPA recommends that you test for radon in the lowest livable level of your home, including basements. This includes rooms that are currently occupied or easily be remodeled into living space, such as a bedroom or family room. It is recommended that you test this area because radon concentrations tend to be highest in these areas.

Test kits can be purchased at hardware stores and online retailers. A kit usually consists of an active charcoal-based detector and can be sent to a laboratory for analysis. There are also specialized detectors that measure the amount of radiation passing through a house’s walls. These devices are typically used when a real estate transaction is involved. It is important to read the tester’s instructions carefully so that you can accurately interpret the results of your radon test.

Short-term tests (2-7 days) should not be conducted during unusually severe weather. Heavy precipitation and powerful storms can lead to temporary high spikes in indoor radon levels.

A long-term test (90+ days) is the preferred method of determining a home’s year-round average radon level. It is also the preferred test for new construction, as it allows you to determine your building’s radon levels before you move in.

The longer duration of a long-term test is more reflective of the way you live in your home, including weather conditions and ventilation habits. For this reason, a long-term test is usually a follow-up to a short-term test and is rarely used as an initial measurement.

Regardless of the type of test you choose, it is important to take your radon level seriously. If the EPA’s action level of 4 pCi/L is exceeded, it is strongly recommended that you seek a solution for your home. Fortunately, radon levels can be reduced with simple and cost effective measures.

How does radon get into your home?

Radon is a gas released from uranium in the soil, which can enter homes through cracks in walls or gaps around pipes and other openings. It can also be introduced into homes that use ground water for their water supply. This type of water is more likely to contain radon than other types of water such as lakes, rivers and reservoirs.

Some building materials like concrete and wallboard give off radon, but usually not at levels high enough to be dangerous. It is also possible to get radon from your work environment, such as mining or using phosphate fertilizers, but again this is usually not dangerous at the levels you would be exposed to in your home.

Short-term tests can be conducted any time of year, but are more accurate during the heating season when people spend more time indoors. Long-term tests should include both the heating and non-heating seasons. It is important to read and follow the test kit instructions carefully. It is best to test the lowest level of the house where people normally spend the most time, such as the basement. If the weather is poor during the testing period, such as severe rain or wind, it can affect results. If a short-term test shows that radon levels are elevated at a specific point in time, such as during a rainstorm, it is important to know how much rain fell on the day of the test, so that you can determine whether your results are valid or skewed.

When conducting a short-term test, it is important to close all windows and doors except for those used for normal entry and exit. It is also a good idea to turn off any fans that re-circulate air, such as furnaces and central AC systems. It is recommended to conduct the test in the winter, since radon levels tend to be higher in the summer.

The best way to test for radon is to use a long-term radon detector, which monitors your home for over 90 days and gives you an average annual exposure. These are available from state radon offices and many online retailers. They are often more expensive than charcoal canisters, but more accurate and simpler to operate. They use alpha track or a similar detector, which measures how much radon your home is absorbing.

What is the EPA’s action level for radon?

There is no “safe” level of radon exposure; all radon concentrations pose some risk. However, EPA recommends that homes be fixed when long-term indoor exposure averages 4 picocuries per cubic meter (pCi/L). One pCi is equal to 12,672 radioactive disintegrations of radon per minute in the air.

The EPA estimates that radon in homes contributes to 21,000 lung cancer deaths annually. This compares to an estimated 18,000 deaths from tobacco smoke and about 53,000 deaths from traffic accidents each year. The EPA advises that all homes should be tested. If a home has high levels of radon, it can be reduced by methods such as active soil depressurization.

Since radon is invisible, there is no way to tell if a home has elevated levels without testing. There are several types of radon testing kits available from hardware stores and some pharmacies. The kits can be used for short term or long term testing. When using a kit, it is important to follow the directions carefully. These include ensuring that the test is conducted in an area of the house not obstructed by doors and windows, and that it is not during a period of heavy heating or cooling in the home.

Short term tests should not be done in conjunction with any occupants in the home, since they may affect the results. The results of the radon test can be affected by changing weather conditions, such as wind or rain. In addition, the radon test should not be performed during any renovation activities that might cause dust or other debris to be kicked up into the air.

In 1986, the EPA recommended that mitigation be considered when indoor radon concentrations exceed 2 pCi/L. This action level was chosen based in part on cost benefit analysis, and in part because at lower concentrations measurement devices are less sensitive and prone to false negative errors. Today, research shows that radon concentrations below 4 pCi/L can be achieved in most homes through mitigation.

International radon exposure guidelines recommend that the intervention level for radon be set at about 10 mSv per year (ICRP 1993b). This is similar to the current EPA recommendation for indoor radon, but reflects the different occupancy factor between work and home.

How can I test my home for radon?

Many hardware and home improvement stores sell do-it-yourself radon test kits. These kits measure radon levels over a period of days and send the results to a lab for analysis. Homeowners can also hire state-certified radon testing professionals to perform the tests. Some states offer a list of qualified contractors on their websites.

The best time of year to conduct a short-term test is during the heating season. During the test, doors and windows should be closed except for air vents and exhaust fans. The test should be conducted in the lowest level of the home that is regularly occupied, usually the basement. The test should not be conducted during severe storms or periods of unusually high winds.

EPA-approved long-term radon test kits measure radon levels over a much longer time frame, between 90 and 365 days. These kits are typically used as a follow up measurement after a moderately elevated radon level is found with a short-term test. They are less expensive than short-term tests and can be purchased online or from your state radon office.

A long-term test kit consists of a polycarbonate sheet that is placed in the basement or lowest living level of your home, raised three feet off the ground. The sheet collects alpha particles emitted from radon and is then sent to a lab for analysis. The lab can measure the number of alpha tracks and determine your home’s average annual radon exposure.

Radon levels in homes can vary widely. Even homes located in the same neighborhood can have different radon levels. Homeowners should test their home for radon regularly, especially if they live in an area with a high risk of radon exposure.

Home and business owners can test their property by using a radon test kit or by hiring a certified radon tester. Most home inspectors, particularly those who work in radon-prone areas, offer radon testing as an added service.

Regardless of the method used to test, the homeowner should take immediate action if a short-term test result exceeds EPA’s 4 pCi/L action level. Taking a long-term test or a series of short-term tests is often recommended before implementing any radon mitigation activities.