Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the second leading cause of cancer in the United States!
Radon Frequently Asked Questions
Do you know what Radon is?
Do you wonder if you should get a house tested for Radon?
Read the frequently asked questions about Radon below. More detailed information about radon is contained in the Health Risks column to the right.
Pro-Techt Home Inspection Services offers professional Radon Testing. Whether you are scheduling a radon test for a real estate transaction or for your current home, we can test the home and have results for you within 2 days. Our electronic testing equipment is professionally maintained and tamper proof, so you can be assured you are receiving accurate and reliable results. Call for details or to schedule a test.
What is Radon?
Radon is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless radioactive gas. Radon is a radioactive element in the decay series of Uranium 238, which is naturally occurring and plentiful in the earth’s crust. As Uranium decays over time, it creates other radioactive elements which also decay, and eventually radon is created from the radioactive element radium.
Is Radon dangerous?
Radon is a known human carcinogen which means it can cause cancer. As a matter of fact, Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the second leading cause of cancer in the United States!
How common is Radon in homes?
A state study shows that elevated levels of radon can be found in about 4 out of 10 homes in Illinois. (42%) The only way to know if you have elevated levels is to test for radon. Two houses next to each other can have vastly different levels of radon. While one house may be fine, the house next door may have elevated levels.
How does Radon get into my house?
As radium decays in the soil, it produces radon which is a gas. Radon gas easily moves through soil due to pressure differentials in the soil. It also enters houses due to pressure differentials, traveling through cracks and holes in the foundation. In addition to being “sucked” through the concrete to enter homes, radon can be released into the air from well water containing radon, and can be directly released into the house from building materials that contain radium.
How does Radon affect me?
Radon is chemically inert meaning it does not stick to objects. Radon radioactively decays into other elements that do stick to objects. This is where the real danger lies. These other elements, called “radon daughter products” or RDP’s for short, stick to dust and smoke particles which can be inhaled and captured in the lungs. Once in the lungs, the RDP’s radioactively decay, damaging lung tissue in the process. This can eventually cause lung cancer.
How much Radon is dangerous?
Radon is measured in picoCuries per liter (pCi/L). The average indoor Radon level in the U.S. is estimated to be 1.3pCi/L and the average outdoor level is about 4pCi/L. Congress has set a long term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels. While this goal is not technologically achievable in all cases, most homes can be reduced to 2pCi/L. The level of Radon at which the U.S. EPA and the State of Illinois recommend mitigation (fixing) is 4pCi/L.
I’m buying a house. Should I test for Radon?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA for short) and the State of Illinois strongly recommend that homebuyers have a radon test performed prior to purchasing a home. If a test has previously been performed at the home, review the results. If a prior test was done two or more years ago, it is recommended that the home be tested again. If the home has not yet been tested, it is recommended the home be tested.
How are Tests conducted?
Radon tests for real estate transactions are usually performed by an Illinois licensed professional or technician. A test takes approximately 2 days under what is called “closed house conditions”, and can usually be coordinated with a home inspection. Closed house conditions are a simple set of rules that must be followed by the occupants of the home during the test. These rules include keeping windows closed. Keeping doors closed except for normal use, and no tampering of measurement devices. The person administering the test will make sure the occupants are informed of the procedure.
What if there are elevated levels of Radon found in the home?
Don’t panic! High radon levels can be reduced. The average cost of mitigating (fixing) elevated levels of radon in a home is between $800 and $1,200. There are a variety of methods used to mitigate a home. Sealing cracks and holes in the foundation and floors is part of most mitigation programs. Usually a system with a vent pipe(s) and fan(s) is used to reduce radon. These systems do not require major changes to the home.
My home had less than 4pCi/L of Radon. Should I have it tested again?
The U.S. EPA recommends that homes be tested every two years, including homes that have been mitigated (fixed). If you are planning any major structural renovation, such as converting an unfinished basement area into living space, it is especially important to test the area for radon before you begin the renovation. If your test results indicate a radon problem, radon-resistant techniques can be inexpensively included as part of the renovation. Major renovations can change the level of radon in any home by creating potential pathways for Radon to enter the building; therefore it is recommended that you test for radon again after work is completed.
Where can I find more information about Radon?
U.S EPA website at:
Illinois Emergency Management Agency Radon website at: http://www.radon.illinois.gov/
To download a pdf version of Radon Frequently Asked Questions, click on the link below. (You will need Acrobat Reader to view).
Health Risks From Radon
Why you should test for radon...
Should I test for radon?
Is it worth it?
If testing for radon is easy, why aren't more people having it done? The fact is, they are!
More and more people are having their homes tested for radon. Why? Because radon is dangerous. What makes radon even more dangerous is the fact that people don't believe they or their loved ones are in danger from something they can't see, taste, or smell. Something so transparent to our lives turns out to be something every homeowner should be concerned about.
Health Risk From Radon
Here is the main health risk: it is a fact that radon causes lung cancer. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers, and is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. It is estimated that 21,000 people die of lung cancer caused by radon each year. This is not a statistic to be taken lightly! Unfortunately we don't think about what can happen down the road 5-10-20 years from now if we ignore the fact that we may be breathing in radioactive particles that can cause cancer. To answer the question "should I have my home tested for radon?" My answer is always "YES". The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the State of Illinois, and many other medical and scientific agencies recommend that you have your home tested. The cost of testing and fixing a home, if need be, is well worth the health of you and your loved ones.
Real Estate Radon Disclosure
Radon disclosure is now a part of each sales contract for home sales in Illinois, and for good reason. Illinois mandated that such disclosure be a part of each real estate contract because of the fact that radon causes lung cancer and also because radon is a serious world-wide heath issue. Every home has radon. The only question is, are the levels high enough to cause concern?
How Radon Enters Houses
The path radon takes to get into your home starts with the natural soil around your home. Uranium 238 is a radioactive and plentiful element in the earth's crust. Over time, uranium radioactively decays, and through intermediate steps, forms the element radium, a solid. Radium in soil poses no threat to humans. When radium radioactively decays, it forms radon which can pose a threat to us. Radon is "noble" gas, meaning it does not attach itself to anything and therefore can mix with and saturate soil gas. If there is a radium source near your home, you could have elevated levels of radon in the soil gas which can then be drawn into your home. Soil gas gets drawn into homes through cracks in the foundation, joints where concrete slabs meet foundations, penetrations through foundations and slabs, and through soil in crawl spaces. The vehicle by which soil gas can be drawn into your home is by means of negative air pressure in the lower levels of your home. This negative pressure is created by several means. Warm air in a home it will rise, the same way a hot air balloon rises. This rising effect of warm air causes negative air pressure where the warm air used to be, that is, in the lower levels of your home. Like sucking on a straw, soil gas is sucked into your home.
Once in your home, radon disintegrates through radioactive decay into four of what are called "radon decay products" or RDP's for short. These RDP's have a static charge, meaning they can and want to attach to another object such as walls, floors, furniture, clothing, dust, etc. Here's where the health risk of radon starts to materialize. When two of the RDP's, polonium 218 and polonium 214, attach to dust particles, they can be inhaled into the lungs where they will lodge and in a short time, radioactively decay, releasing an "alpha particle". The alpha particle, when released through radioactive decay in lung tissue, can strike DNA strands in nearby cells. Damaged cells can, over time, develop into cancer. This is the main threat that radon posses.
Lung cancer is one of the most deadly forms of all cancers, with a low survival rate. The incidence of lung cancer from radon exposure is function of radon exposure levels combined with exposure time. The greater the radon level and/or the exposure time, the greater the risk of lung cancer. This has been confirmed through many medical and radon studies over many years. Radon exposure studies can be found at the US EPA website link at the bottom of this page.
To give you some perspective of what we're dealing with, the level of radon in the air to which the EPA recommends you mitigate or fix a home is 4pCi/l (4 picoCuries per liter of air) or higher. At 4pCi/l there are 8.88 radioactive disintegrations per liter of air. (Remember, that's both radon and RDP's decaying at the same time). With an average person breathing in 12 liters of air per minute, there are 106.5 chances of disintegration in your lungs per minute. Multiply that by 60 minutes in an hour, it is possible to have 6393.6 radioactive disintegrations that can occur in your lungs per hour at the action level of 4pCi/l.
The good news? Radon can be measured and if needed, reduced to lower levels for less than what most people think.
Testing For Radon
Radon testing can be accomplished in different ways. You can pick up a radon testing kit at various hardware stores, drugstores, home improvement stores, through local and state governments, and on the internet. These types of kits are of the do-it-yourself variety. You must follow the directions carefully and send the kit to the designated laboratory in the specified time slot. You could also hire a licensed technician or professional to test your home, with results in most cases within 2 days.
In Illinois, testing for a real estate transaction must be performed by a licensed technician or professional. This guarantees accurate, reliable results. These tests are performed over a 2 day period.
If levels of radon are found to be 4pCi/l (4 picoCuries per liter of air) or higher, it is recommended to mitigate (fix) the house. Mitigation costs on average are $800 to $1200 for most homes. When you consider the health risks associated to prolonged radon exposure, it is money well spent, not to mention the sense of relief it will provide you.
There are a variety of methods used to mitigate a home. Sealing cracks and holes in the foundation and floors is part of most mitigation programs. Usually a system with a vent pipe(s) and fan(s) is used to reduce radon. These systems do not require major changes to the home. Once a system to mitigate radon levels is completed, your home should be tested again by an independent source, to confirm the system is operating and reducing radon to acceptable levels.
Whether you have found low levels of radon or have a mitigation system in your home, the EPA and the State of Illinois recommend having your home tested every 2 years. This is because a house, like our own bodies, changes over time. These changes can affect how your home naturally "breaths" and can affect the radon levels in your home.
Pro-Techt Home Inspection Services can Help
Pro-Techt Home Inspection Services has Illinois licensed technicians available for your testing needs 7 days a week. We can schedule a test for pick up at your convenience or schedule it so it can be picked up at the conclusion of a home inspection.
The testing equipment Pro-Techt Home Inspection Services uses is professionally maintained and calibrated, as required by the State of Illinois. This equipment can show if it has been tampered with by someone. (A cause of concern for real estate transactions).
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