January is Radon Action Month, fittingly this month I would like to talk a little about radon, radon facts and myths, as it relates specifically to our area. I perform Radon testing on approximately half of the homes I inspect. When we ask a client if they would like a radon test along with their inspection we often get the response: “What is Radon?”. I thought that since January is Radon action month I would discuss what Radon is, what the health effects are, and some common myths I regularly hear from people who are mis-informed.
Here are some Radon FACTS:
- Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas. It’s produced when uranium breaks down. The gas is released through rocks, soil, and water, and can build up in enclosed spaces through cracks in the foundation or other openings in the building.
- Breathing radon can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer, and the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers.Lung cancer caused by radon exposure has a very low survival rate. The EPA and Surgeon General estimate that radon causes 20,000 lung cancer deaths each year.
- Radon can’t be seen or smelled. You can’t hear it, and you can’t taste it, either. This means that you must test for radon to know for sure if it’s in your home.
- Radon can build up in any building, new homes and old homes. And homes with or without basements.
Test your home for radon if you’ve never tested before. It’s a simple and inexpensive way to keep your family healthy and safe. Many people will tell me that they don’t intend to use their basement so they don’t have to worry about radon since it’s only in the basement. I usually smile and then explain to them that whatever the level their basement has, the levels on the first floor are going to be approximately half of that. Here are some other common myths I hear from unsuspecting homeowners:
- A neighbor’s test result is a good indication of whether your home has a problem. It’s not. Radon levels can vary greatly from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.
- Radon test kits are not reliable and are hard to find. Reliable test kits are available from qualified radon testers and companies. Reliable testing devices are also available at many hardware stores. Professional radon testing by a Radon Measurement Specialist is typically less than $200 and can be accomplished in as little as 2 days.
- Radon only affects certain kinds of homes. House construction can affect radon levels. However, radon can be a problem in homes of all types: old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements, homes without basements. Local geology, construction materials, and how the home was built are among the factors that can affect radon levels in homes.
- Radon testing is difficult, time-consuming and expensive. Radon testing is easy. You can test your home yourself or hire a qualified radon testing company. Either approach takes only a small amount of time and effort.
- Scientists aren’t sure radon really is an issue. Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all 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.
High radon results have been found in every state. The only way to know if you home is safe from dangerous levels is through testing. As you can see from the list above there are many misconceptions as it pertains to radon. Testing is easy.
There are also some devices available that detect radon levels on an ongoing basis. I use an Airthings Wave plus in my home. This device measures radon, carbon dioxide, humidity, pressure, and TVOC’s (total volatile organic compounds). I have used this device for about two years and have cross checked it’s accuracy against my radon monitors. If you are interested in a device like this a discount is available to my clients by using discount code: ZUEHLKE-10OFF at discount.airthings.com
So to summarize, there are a lot of incorrect assumptions/myths with regards to radon. I by no means am a radon scientist but do have a good understanding of building science and methods in preventing dangerous levels within the home. If you have any questions about radon, radon systems, or methods of preventing radon buildup, please let me know at the link below.
As always, I hope you have taken some value from this post.
Aaron M. Zuehlke is the owner and inspector at Zuehlke Inspection Service, LLC, a full-service home inspection company serving Southern Wisconsin. Specializing in Home inspection, Radon Testing, Mold Testing/inspection, Residential Thermal Imaging, and Manufactured Home Foundation Certifications. He also manages several rental properties through Zuehlke Properties, LLC. He can be reached by email at Aaron@Zuehlkeinspections.com or by calling the office at 608-931-7485.