Radon services


 

Surgeon General Health Advisory:

"Indoor radon gas is a national health problem.  Radon causes thousand of deaths each year.  
Millions of homes have elevated radon levels.  Homes should be tested for radon.  
When elevated levels are confirmed, the problem should be corrected."

 

What is radon?

Click on the link (what is radon) above to view a very short video, produced by the EPA, to learn more about Radon, its decay products, testing and mitigation strategies.

Radon is a naturally occurring gaseous radioactive element. It is an extremely toxic gas. Radon is produced from the breakdown of uranium-a common mineral all over the world. The EPA estimates that 1 out of every 15 homes has elevated levels of radon gas.



EPA estimates

* Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, according to EPA's 2003 Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003). The numbers of deaths from other causes are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2005-2006 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Report and 2006 National Safety Council Reports.


Radon-where is it found?

Radon can be found in the air, soil, rock and ground water.Radon gas can be found in any home that has direct contact with the ground. It would not be found in mobile homes or homes elevated on piers. It is colorless and odorless so it cannot be detected by senses. The age, size or construction of the home does not matter. Generally, homes with basements are more prone to elevated levels that homes on slabs.

The Radon map of Vermont

Click on the image for a larger version.
What do the colors mean?

Radon-how does it get into a home?

1. Cracks in solid floors        2. Construction joints
3. Cracks in walls                4. Gaps in suspended floors
5. Gaps around services       6. Cavaties inside walls
7. The water supply

A difference in pressure is all that is needed. The air pressure within a structure is generally lower than the pressure in the soils around and below the foundation. Because of this pressure difference, a building acts like a vacuum, drawing the gas thru cracks and openings in the foundation walls, floors and penetrations. Because radon gas emanates from the soil, the geology of the area is somewhat predicable as to the average radon gas levels. The EPA has worked with state geologists in developing maps which can help to predict the potential for indoor radon gas levels within each state and county in the United States.

The risk of living with Radon

When a radioactive element decays, it emits radiation. Radon gas decays into radioactive particles.  It is the radiation given off by radon and its decay products that is the health concern. The decay products are solid alpha, beta and gamma particles. The particles have an electric charge that can produce an attraction to objects like ceilings, walls and airborne dust.  As you breathe, these dust particles get trapped in your lungs.  The alpha particle can release small bursts of energy.  This energy can damage lung tissue and lead to lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. Not everyone exposed to elevated levels of radon will develop lung cancer. And the amount of time between exposure and the onset of the disease may be many years.

Like any other environmental pollutants, there is some uncertainty about the magnitude of radon health risks. However, more is known about radon risks that most other cancer causing substances.  This is due, in large part, to the studies of cancer done on underground miners. 
Smoking combined with radon is an especially serious health risk.  Stop smoking and reduce you radon levels to reduce your lung cancer risk. Children and the elderly have been reported to have greater risk than adults for certain types of cancer from radiation but there are currently no conclusive data on whether they are at greater risk than adults from radon.

Determine your risk-Test for Radon

Will you be doing the testing yourself or hiring a contractor. You can determine a service provider's qualifications to perform radon measurements or to mitigate your home in several ways. Check with your state radon office.  Vermont does not have a licensing program but maintains a list of certified contractors.  In states that don't regulate radon services, ask the contractor if they hold a professional proficiency or certification credential. Such programs usually provide members with a photo-ID card, which indicates their qualification and its expiration date. If in doubt, you should check with their credentialing organization. Alternatively, ask the contractor if they've successfully completed formal training appropriate for testing or mitigation, e.g., a course in radon measurement or radon mitigation.

There are two General Ways to Test for Radon

SHORT-TERM TESTING:

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 Home Sales).

How To Use a Test Kit:

Testing is easy and should only take a few minutes of your time.
Follow the instructions that come with your test kit. If you are doing a short-term test, close your windows and outside doors and keep them closed  during the test.  Heating and air-conditioning system fans that re-circulate air may be operated. Do not operate fans or other machines which bring in air from outside. Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating only for short periods of time may run during the test. If you are doing a short-term test lasting just 2 or 3 days, be sure to close your windows and outside doors at least 12 hours before beginning the test, too. You should not conduct short-term tests lasting just 2 or 3 days during unusually severe storms or periods of unusually high winds. The test kit should be placed in the lowest level of the home that is or could be lived in (for example, the basement if it is frequently used, otherwise the first floor). It should be put in a room that is used regularly (like a living room, playroom, den or bedroom) but not your kitchen or bathroom. Place the kit at least 20 inches above the floor in a location where it won't be disturbed - away from drafts, high heat, high humidity, and exterior walls. Leave the kit in place for as long as the package says. Once you've finished the test, reseal the package and send it to the lab specified on the package right away for analysis. You should receive your test results within a few weeks.

 

LONG-TERM TESTING:

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.

EPA Recommends the Following Testing Steps:

  • Step 1.  Take a short-term test. If your result is 4 pCi/L or higher take a follow-up test (Step 2) to be sure.
  • Step 2.  Follow up with either a long-term test or a second short-term test:

           -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.

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 result is more than twice EPA's 4 pCi/L action level, you should take a second short-term test immediately.
 

  • Step 3.  If you followed up with a long-term test: Fix your home if your long-term test result is 4 pCi/L or more. If you followed up with a second short-term test: The higher your short-term results, the more certain you can be that you should fix your home. Consider fixing your home if the average of your first and second test is 4 pCi/L or higher. See also (Home Sales)