According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), nearly one out of every 15 houses in the United States has elevated radon levels, which is a noxious gas that can have detrimental effects on one’s health.
Whether you’re a homeowner or a seller, it’s absolutely crucial to understand what radon testing is and how it’s done before you buy, sell, or even build a house. You can avoid future health problems by doing so.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the different processes of radon testing, but first, let’s take an in-depth look into what radon is and the health consequences of being exposed to it.
What causes Radon in a house?
Radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in small amounts as a result of the uranium, thorium, or radium decay in rocks, soil, and groundwater. It’s difficult to detect without routine testing because it’s colorless, tasteless, and odorless.
This gas can enter a house or a building through cracks in the walls or floors. It can also enter through well water and some construction materials, such as concrete. Still, the most common way for radon to enter a building is through the soil.
Keep in mind that all houses, regardless of age or location, are at risk of having high levels of radon. This gas can be found in any state and all types of terrain. As a result, it’s crucial to test your house every two years, as well as after any renovations.
If you have a radon mitigation system in your house, you should test for radon once a year to ensure that it’s functioning properly.
Radon Exposure Health Risks
When an individual breathes in radon, it seeps into the lungs, exposing the cells to radioactive energy.
Over time, this exposure can damage the cells in the lining of the lungs and increase the risk of lung cancer. There’s even a higher risk on individuals who are exposed to both radon and cigarette smoke.
In fact, statistics show that radon exposure is the leading cause of lung cancer in nonsmokers and the second leading cause overall in the United States.
Because it can take years to detect radon exposure symptoms, it’s vital to detect radon leaks through radon testing early to protect yourself and your family in the long run.
What Is Radon Testing: DIY kit versus professional?
Radon testing is the only detection mechanism that can measure radon levels. There are three radon testing types that you or a professional can do based on the situation and the building being tested:
- Short-term tests are conducted for at least 48 hours. They’re best for evaluating the presence of radon in the building and are often used by homeowners.
- Long-term tests are conducted from 90 days up to one year. They indicate more accurate results than short-term tests, so they’re usually used by certified professionals.
Generally, short-term radon test kits can cost as little as $15, while long-term kits can cost around $30. The price typically includes the lab fees, but you should double-check before you buy the kit.
You should also look into the turnaround time for lab results, as some places can take months to get back to the client.
Radon Testing Steps
Whether you’re conducting a short-term or long-term test, there are three phases to radon testing.
Before you do radon testing, there are some instructions that you need to follow carefully:
- Choose a time when the weather is clear and there are no high winds or rainstorms.
- Keep doors and windows closed for at least 12 hours on all levels at your home
- Turn off any appliance that draws air out of the house, such as dryers, bathroom fans, dehumidifiers, and ceiling fans
- Keep heating or air conditioning on auto-mode between 67 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit
Another thing that you should seriously consider is the location where you’ll place the test kit. Putting the kit by a window, door, or brick wall can cause inaccurate readings.
Radon testing kits are preferably placed on the lowest level of the premises, right in the center of the room, and two to six feet off the floor.
During the Test
The duration time is specified in the test instructions, which should be at least 48 hours for any type of test.
For that entire period, the testing kit should be left undisturbed. If there are any drafts or movements, the result may come out inaccurate.
After the Test
When the test is finished, you can immediately collect the device and send it to the lab. Because DIY radon testing kits are time-sensitive, any delays can invalidate the test.
Usually, the results may take anywhere from 48 hours to a few months. Make sure to check with the lab for an approximate time frame.
Difference Between Professional Radon Testing and DIY kit Radon Testing
Professional radon testing often uses active devices that continuously measure radon and its decay products in the air.
This test generally produces more accurate results. It allows companies to examine all potential causes of radon leaks to pinpoint the exact source.
This test will check the soil around your home, private wells, public water supplies, and any other groundwater sources.
If the test results show high radon levels, the company will usually devise a comprehensive plan to reduce radon levels and make the home safer.
On the other hand, DIY radon testing uses passive devices charcoal and alpha track, which are highly sensitive to the environment. As a result, this test should only be used to determine whether or not there’s a radon problem.
The kit’s accuracy is almost always questionable because it’s run by a non-professional, so it’s not highly recommended if you seriously suspect there’s a radon leak.
That said, professional radon testing can range between $150 and $1,200, depending on the house size and region. So, it’s better if you do a short-term test using a DIY kit first and hire a professional if the results are high.
Understanding Radon Test Results
Almost every house has radon, so what you should be concerned with is the level of the gas.
The amount of radon in the air is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). Initial short-term lab results that are under 2 pCi/L aren’t worth fretting about.
However, if the lab results return above 2 pCi/L, you should conduct a follow-up short or long-term test.
If the second results are less than 2 pCi/L, there’s no need to take any action. If the results are greater than 2 pCi/L, you should consider installing a radon mitigation system, especially if the results are 4 pCi/L or higher.
Radon is a serious health hazard that many homes in the United States face. As a result, radon levels should be a concern for every household, especially if the house has never been tested for radon.
While not every house has or will have concerning radon levels, there’s always the possibility that a house has elevated radon levels because the gas can go undetected for many years.
You can conduct your own DIY radon testing at home. For more accurate results, however, professional radon testing is the best option.
If your house has high radon levels, the company that conducted the test can install a mitigation system to dissipate radon from your household.