Since January is Radon Action Month, I figured we should talk about this invisible odorless killer. For those unfamiliar, radon is a natural source of radiation that comes from the radioactive decay of uranium, radium, and other radioactive elements in the soil and rocks below us. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and kills around 21,000 people every year, according to the EPA. It sounds scary, and it is, but testing for radon isn’t! You can hire a professional (like us!), or pick up a test at your local hardware store, or order one online. Some states will also provide free tests.
For example, in Pennsylvania, hospitals give parents of newborns a coupon for a free radon test kit from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP.) Any Pennsylvanian who has tested their home, or other building, for radon and gotten a result greater than 100 picocuries per liter can have a free confirmation test kit from the DEP Bureau of Radiation Protection.
For reference, the EPA recommends mitigating, or reducing, radon if your test comes back at 4pCi/L or higher.
Delaware residents can call the Delaware Division of Public Health – Radon office at 1+(800) 464-4357.
And Maryland residents, act now! Maryland has a free radon test kit program, but it’s only available in January so act fast this Radon Action Month!
If you decide to hire a professional, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
Not every state requires certification. In my opinion, if you’re going to get it done professionally, get it done by someone who knows what they’re about. There are two nationally recognized radon proficiency programs, the National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP) and the National Radon Safety Board (NRSB).
Check turnaround time as it can vary from company to company. This is most important if you are in the home-buying process.
Once you’ve decided how you want to do your testing, the rest is easy! Whether you pick up your own test or hire a professional, the test just needs to sit in the lowest level of your house for a spell. If you have a basement, the test should be placed there. If you don’t have a basement, the test goes to the lowest level, probably the main floor. And yes, you can have elevated levels of radon even if you don’t have a basement. Homes built on slabs can get radon too.
Radon tests are passive- the test won’t harm you, your family, or your pets. While radon itself is radioactive, the tests are not. They don’t ‘emit’ or release anything, and you can touch them, but you probably don’t want to because it will invalidate the test.
Once the radon tests are placed, they need a couple of days to do their thing. If you buy a home test kit, make sure to check how long the tests need to run. Most home tests take 96 hours, or 4 days, but better to check. A professional test can take as little as 48 hours, or two days.
While the test is running, it’s important to maintain ‘closed house conditions’. All that really means is keeping windows and doors closed- in the whole house- except when entering and exiting. So this January is a great time to test. It’s been mostly cold and rainy, and who needs an open window on that?
Once the test is complete, either the environmental technician will pick it up, or you’ll need to mail it to a lab so they can read it. Some companies (like ours!) are able to read the tests in-house, but others may also have to mail your sample to the lab. If you’re getting tested before closing on a house, make sure you have enough time to run the test and get the results before your deadline.
When you have your results, here is a chart for easy reference:
At 4 pico curies per liter or higher, the EPA recommends mitigating. We’ll be getting into more detail about mitigation systems and options in another article. For today, let’s focus on testing. It’s recommended to test every two years because, as elements in the soil and rocks under our homes break down and decay over time, it releases new radon gas into the environment.
- Radon is dangerous
- Radon is easily testable
- Protect yourself, get tested today!
- Test around every 2 years, there could be new radon
If you want to know more about radon, I encourage you to check out our article on the fascinating history of this element!
And as always,
Thank you for reading!