Radon is an invisible, tasteless, odorless, radioactive gas that causes cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking and is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. Radon is responsible for about 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year. In 2005 Dr. Richard H. Camona, the US Surgeon General issued a National Heath Advisory on radon.
The only way to know if your home has elevated radon levels is to have your home tested. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes where living areas are below the 3rd level. Radon has been found in homes all over the United States, in fact nearly 1 out of every 15 homes is estimated to have an elevated radon level (4 pCi/L or more).
Radon is a naturally occurring gas and comes from the natural breakdown (radioactive decay) of uranium. It is usually found in igneous rock and soil, but in some cases, well water may also be a source of radon. The primary routes of potential human exposure to radon are inhalation and ingestion. Radon in the ground, groundwater, or building materials (granite countertops for example) enters working and living spaces and disintegrates into its decay products. Although high concentrations of radon in groundwater may contribute to radon exposure through ingestion, the inhalation of radon released from water is usually more important.
Radon Myths & Facts
For more information you can download the EPA's Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon (PDF) at https://www.epa.gov/radon/home-buyers-and-sellers-guide-radon
Myth #1: Scientists are not sure that radon really is a problem.
Fact: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control, the American Lung Association, and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.
Myth #2: Radon testing devices are not reliable and are difficult to find.
Fact: Reliable radon tests are available from qualified radon testers and companies. Active radon devices can continuously gather and periodically record radon levels to reveal any unusual swings in the radon level during the test. Reliable testing devices are also available by phone or mail-order, and can be purchased in hardware stores and other retail outlets. Contact your state radon office for a list of qualified radon test companies.
Myth #3: Radon testing is difficult and time consuming.
Fact: Radon testing is easy. You can test your home yourself or hire a qualified radon test company. Either approach takes only a small amount of time and effort.
Myth #4: Homes with radon problems cannot be fixed.
Fact: There are solutions to radon problems in homes. Thousands of home owners have already lowered their radon levels. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs. Contact your state radon office for a list of qualified mitigation contractors.
Myth #5: Radon only affects certain types of homes.
Fact: Radon can be a problem in all types of homes, including old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements, and homes without basements. Local geology, construction materials, and how the home was built are among the factors that can affect radon levels in homes.
Myth #6: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.
Fact: High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know a home’s radon level is to test.
Myth #7: A neighbor's test result is a good indication of whether your home has a radon problem.
Fact: It is not. Radon levels vary from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.
Myth #8: Everyone should test their water for radon.
Fact: While radon gets into some homes through the water, it is important to first test the air in the home for radon. If your water comes from a public water system that uses ground water, call your water supplier. If high radon levels are found and the home has a private well, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 for information on testing your water. Also, call your state radon office for more information about radon in air.
Myth #9: It is difficult to sell a home where radon problems have been discovered.
Fact: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked. The added protection will be a good selling point.
Myth #10: I have lived in my home for so long, it does not make sense to take action now.
Fact: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you have lived with an elevated radon level for a long time.
Myth #11: Short-term tests cannot be used for making a decision about whether to reduce the home's high radon levels.
Fact: Short-term tests can be used to decide whether to reduce the home’s high radon levels. However, the closer the short-term testing result is to 4 pCi/L, the less certainty there is about whether the home’s year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk and that radon levels can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below in most homes.
Our Testing Devices
We take radon very seriously at Alpha Home Inspections, that's why we use a Radstar RS300. Radstar continuous radon monitors are EPA verified and listed exclusively with the National Radon Proficiency Program. Our monitor is placed in the home for at least 48 hours and collects a radon measurement every hour to provide you with a full and accurate reading. The device is plugged into a regular wall outlet and is equipped with a battery backup, the device will also show if the machine has been tampered with.
Our monitors are sent back to the manufacturer's labs where they are re-calibrated regularly to insure that we are providing you with the most accurate data we can. If you're home does have elevated Radon levels there are ways to bring the levels back down, but you would have to contact a Raon Mitigation expert to determine which method is best for your home.