Top 10 Questions Homeowners Should Ask About Radon

1. WHAT IS RADON?

  • Radon is a colorless, odorless, naturally occurring gas that emanates from rocks and soils in the earth’s surface.
  • Radon gas is one of the decay products of uranium.
  • As it is produced, radon can concentrate in enclosed spaces, such as underground mines or houses.

2. WHY SHOULD A HOMEOWNER CONSIDER RADON A POTENTIAL HEALTH CONCERN?

  • Radon gas that is inhaled produces “alpha particles” that interact with lung tissues, causing
    DNA damage at the cellular level, and mutations that lead to the development of cancer.
  • Given that even a single alpha particle can cause cellular damage, it’s likely that any level of exposure to radon gas has the potential to cause cancer.

3. WHAT IS THE DATA REGARDING THE HEALTH IMPACT OF RADON IN THE HOME?

  • Lung cancer kills thousands of Americans every year.
  • Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, causing an estimated 160,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. every year.
  • According to the EPA, radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, according to EPA estimates. Overall, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year.
  • Previously, there was some debate over the relevance of studies proving the health risks of prolonged radon exposure with underground miners. However, in 2005, two studies (one in North America and one in Europe) were completed that provided definitive evidence of the association between residential radon exposure and lung cancer.

NE RADON REPORT CARD

4. HOW DOES RADON ENTER THE HOME?

  • The majority of radon in homes permeates through cracks in the foundation or slab. Other common pathways include plumbing penetrations and sump pumps.
  • A difference in air pressure between the lowest level of the home and the soil beneath it draws radon into the home.
  • Older homes that lack the “tightness” of newer home tend to pull higher levels of radon into the home due the “stack effect” whereby warm air within the home rises and leaks through openings in the upper portion of the home, pulling more soil-gases into the lower portion of the home.
  • Newer homes with better insulation and “tightness” retain higher levels of radon due to higher negative pressure caused by exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms and clothes dryers.

RADON ENTRY

5. CAN RADON BE KEPT OUT OF THE HOME?

  • Sealing large cracks and openings in the basement can reduce the number of entry points but has generally been found to be impractical and ineffective as a stand-alone technique.
  • For new construction, installation of a sub-slab depressurization system utilizes a 4-layer of coarse gravel beneath the slab to enable venting the soil-gases from under the slab to outside the home.

6. HOW DO I KNOW WHETHER RADON GAS IS PRESENT IN MY HOME?

  • The only way for a homeowner to confirm the radon levels in your home is to test for it.
  • Uranium, and resulting radon gas levels vary greatly throughout the world. As the map reflects, the highest levels of radon in the US (Zone 1) are found in the Appalachian region and the mid-western states (including eastern NE and IA).

radon zones epa map
  • Radon levels can also vary greatly from home to home within neighborhoods, due to variation in the presence of uranium deposits in seams of rock and different soil types.
  • Indoor radon levels depend on several variables and can fluctuate significantly from day-to-day due to changes in outside temperature and pressure, wind, and precipitation.

NE RADON

7. WHEN SHOULD I TEST FOR THE PRESENCE OF RADON?

  • Testing can be done at any time of the year.
  • Avoid testing during severe weather.
  • It is recommended to test for radon whenever moving into a new residence.
  • If major renovations involving changing the configuration of walls, floors and/or HVAC system, it is recommended that you re-test for radon.
  • Testing conducted when your HVAC system is operating both day and night will generally provide more accurate results.
  • Re-testing is recommended no sooner than 24-hours after the activation of a mitigation system to verify the effectiveness of mitigation.

8. WHAT IS INVOLVED IN TESTING FOR RADON?

  • There are two types of devices commonly used to test for radon gas:
    • “Passive devices” that collect a time-weighted average and don’t provide hourly readings.
    • “Continuous monitors” that record and display readings in 1-hour increments and can be re-calibrated.
  • During the test period, “Closed House Conditions”are required, which include maintaining typical household activity and ventilation, no operation of whole-house fans, no open windows, no fireplace fires, and no unusual operation of exhaust fans and clothes dryers.
  • Testing should always be done in the lowest, inhabited area of house.
  • Homes that are large (>3,000 sf), have multiple HVAC systems or have unique foundation configurations may require more than one testing location.
  • It’s recommended that a Qualified Measurement Professional perform radon testing to ensure that the process, equipment, and interpretation of the results are as accurate and dependable as possible.

RADON TEST

9. HOW ARE RADON TEST RESULTS INTERPRETED?

  • Radon test results are expressed in pCi/L (picocuries per liter).
    • <2.0 pCi/L – no mitigation recommended, follow up testing every 5-years or if major renovations
    • 2.0-4.0 pCi/L – consider mitigation with follow up testing after 2-years
    • >4.0 pCi/L – recommend mitigation with follow up testing after 2-years

10. WHAT’S INVOLVED IN THE MITIGATION OF HIGH RADON LEVELS?

  • The most common radon mitigation technique for existing homes that were not constructed with radon mitigation during construction is the installation of a sub-slab depressurization system.
  • As shown, this generally involves the insertion of one or more suction pipes through the floor slab into the crushed rock or soil underneath. They also may be inserted below the concrete slab from outside the home. The number and location of suction pipes that are needed depends on the composition of the sub-slab soil and the strength of the radon source. Often, only a single suction point is needed.
radonmitigationsystem

Acuity Home Inspections is a Nebraska Certified Radon Measurement Business, utilizing only NE Certified Measurement Specialists to conduct your radon test. Whether bundled with a home inspection, or a standalone service, a radon test will help you verify the radon status of your home, giving you the peace of mind that you’re doing everything you can to protect the health and safety of your loved ones. Contact Acuity today to schedule your radon test!