Why Test For Radon?



Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer death in the United States behind smoking.  It kills an estimated 22,000 people each year (59 Americans every day).  The reality is: that’s twice as many radon induced lung cancer deaths as drunk driving (according to the CDC).  Radon gas is colorless, odorless, and completely invisible to the naked eye.  Those reasons alone are sufficient enough to test for radon.  Testing for radon is quick, simple, and affordable.

The US EPA recommends radon gas inspection your home once every two years (January Radon Awareness Month and the best month to test).  There are many reasons for this.  First, radon gas inspection is cheap compared to the long term health effects of high radon exposure, thus making it a good investment in preventative health.

Second, soil conditions under the home can change.  Radon gas is released from rocks and soil underground.  As rocks in soil settle and break down, radon levels fluctuate.  It is important to know if a radon mitigation system that was installed years ago is still working as it should.

Lastly, radon mitigation systems are not lifetime systems.  Many fans last a decade or more; however, some do fail within a few years.  Oftentimes when a fan fails, a busy homeowner will not notice.  Without a functioning fan, a radon system will hardly function at all.  Other problems can arise from day-to-day living as well: system seals can break; crawlspace barrier can rip from improper storage of Christmas decor or a crazy game of hide and seek; PVC piping can be jostled loose by Dad in the attic; or a landscaper could bump gutter exhaust material.  All of these scenarios have and can happen, leading to a malfunctioning radon mitigation system.

If you’re unsure how your radon system is functioning, call PDS and we can get you in touch with a qualified mitigator or certified tester in your area for a complete radon gas inspection.  You can also test on your own to get a snapshot of your indoor radon levels with the PDS short term test kit.

Test often and be sure your air is safe.

Common misconceptions about Radon testing


“My neighbors don’t have radon, so I don’t need to test.”

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about radon.  Radon gas levels vary considerably, even block-to-block, house-to-house, and room-to-room.  In addition to the changing soil directly beneath your home, the way your home is built has a lot to do with how much radon is inside.  Newer, “tighter” homes, typically have higher radon levels.  HVAC systems that don’t efficiently exchange air can trap VOCs and radon in your home as well.  From the soil beneath your home to the furnace you bought, many things change your radon risk.  The bottom line: the only way to know your radon level is a full radon gas inspection.

“I have an existing radon system, so I don’t need to test.”

As stated above, radon systems are not lifetime systems.  Just like you wouldn’t expect an air conditioner to last your entire life, clean air appliances, such as radon systems, do not always last forever.  There are many connections that can fail.  House conditions, changes in weather, and everyday living can wear down components of a radon mitigation system.  While qualified mitigators build these systems to last, things can always fail.  If you just bought a home with an pre-existing radon system, visit our radon and real estate page to learn more about how to check if your system is working.

“We had a test done when we moved in.”

How long ago was that?  The EPA recommends radon testing every two years.  As described above, many things can go wrong with your system or your home.  Foundation cracks can form under finished flooring and never reveal themselves.  The only way to be 100% certain your system is still working properly is to perform another test.  Radon fans can steadily lose performance over time.  The average life of a radon fan sold by PDS is ~8 years.  Many homeowners have fans twice that age and no radon test results for over a decade.  It’s a dangerous game to assume your 15 year old fan is still working like new.  You wouldn’t just assume the smoke detectors in your home worked without testing them every few months, would you?

“My levels were at 4.0 pCi/L, so I’m safe.”

Yes the EPA action level is 4.0 pCi/L, however that level was set nearly 30 years ago and new research is showing it is not as safe as once thought.  Did you know over 2/3 of all radon lung cancer deaths come from levels below the EPA action level?  In fact, the EPA action level is equivalent to 8 cigarettes per day in cancer risk.

According to Radon.com and the US NRC , A home with radon levels of 4 pCi/L is exposed to approximately 35 times as much radiation as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would allow if that family was standing next to the fence of a radioactive waste site.

Nowadays, most licensed mitigators guarantee getting radon levels below 2.7 pCi/L with a long-term warranty agreement, another reason to go with a licensed pro!

“I have a new house, so I don’t need to worry about radon”

This article, published by Nature shows a 31.5% increase in radon levels for homes build since 1992 versus older homes.  Homes these days are built very tight, but no matter how tight you build, radon still gets in through the subfloor.  Without sub soil depressurization, tight homes simply accumulate more radiation.  Only year-round testing can tell you what your exposure is.

“The EPA map shows no radon here”

The US EPA radon map was published in 1993 and has not been updated since.  You heard me right.  Less than 10,000 data points for a country of 330 million people.  This radon map was published less than a decade after the first US home was tested.  There were barely a hundred radon testing professionals in the US when this data was gathered!

Now, nearly thirty years later, this map is proving to be more of a headache than help.  Every single state that has updated their risk map with new data has become ZONE 1 HIGH RISK.  Conclusion: test your home!

“Is there radon near me?”

Emphatically: yes.  Unless you live on a houseboat or in a van down by the river, you have a radon risk.  In fact, even outside air tests at 0.3 pCi/L.  It’s all about total risk and danger, so test your home to determine your radon risk.  Radon is found at dangerous levels in all 50 US states, not just the mountain ones.

“I have a monitor from Amazon!”

We are very glad that homeowners are taking notice of their indoor air quality and monitoring it with smart devices* like the AirThings Wave and RadonEye.  These devices can catch radon mitigation system failures weeks and sometimes months ahead of time.  That being said, consumer-grade continuous radon monitors—CRMs for short—are not lifetime devices.  They can and will fail at some point.  The problem is: they don’t tell you when they stop working!  One day, unbeknownst to you, the CRM will start showing a false reading.  Unlike professional grade CRMs that cost thousands of dollars, most consumer devices cannot be re-calibrated.  It’s simply not cost effective.  Professionals pay hundreds of dollars each year to re-calibrate, but most entry CRMs cost $200 or less, not worth the trouble.

But wait!  You can “self-calibrate”.  Perform your EPA recommended bi-annual test next to your CRM and ensure that your lab test results match your CRM.  If they differ significantly (more than .5 pCi/L), consider replacing your CRM.

*Be sure your CRM is NRPP or NRSB certified, each site lists all approved devices.  If not, then it’s probably not worth the cardboard box it came in!  PDS recommends the EcoBlu found here, save up to 5% on all EcoSense monitors with coupon code radonpds.

My realtor told me there’s no radon here.”

Radon gas is everywhere, it’s an element in the periodic table.  It is found in all 50 states at levels above 4.0 pCi/L.  Heck, even outside air has 0.3 pCi/L!  Realtors and home inspectors are people too, and they are susceptible to the same common misconceptions as you or I.  There are many factors that go into buying a home and a realtor has a limited amount of time with a client.  Just like they can miss a piece of broken siding,  a realtor can overlook radon: the invisible killer.  You never know for certain if there’s radon in your home until you test.

“I don’t have a basement, so I don’t need to test.”

Although radon concentrations are often highest in basements, that does not mean that they cannon be high in other levels of the home, or in homes without basements.

“I have a walk-out basement, so I don’t need to test.”

Similar to the above, radon finds it’s way into all parts of the home.  While levels fluctuate throughout the year, and are often lowest in summer months when windows and doors let fresh air in from outside, you cannot be certain that your levels are not dangerous until you test.  An open window or door does not qualify as a proper radon mitigation system.

“Radon wasn’t a problem when I was a kid”

It was, you just didn’t know about it, and it’s not your fault!  Radon wasn’t introduced to the public eye until the Watras Incident in 1986.

Stanley Watras, an employee at the Limerick PA nuclear facility set off radiation alarms at work for weeks.  He wasn’t getting the radioactivity from his job at the nuclear plant, so where was it coming from?  His home!  Over 2,000 pci/L (the equivalent of smoking 135 PACKS of cigarettes a day) was found to be the radioactivity of his home.  Read the full story here.  The truth is: the radon industry is in its infancy.  Federal and state regulations are almost non-existent.  The government isn’t going to protect you.  It is up to you to test your home and protect your family.

I’m not in the mountains, so I don’t have radon in my soil.”

As you can see from the map below, radon is found in soil all over.  It isn’t just a problem for mountainous folk.  In fact, one of the US states at highest risk for radon exposure is… Iowa!  It’s map is filled with Zone 1 counties, just like Colorado.  The only way to know that your home is safe is to test!

“Only old homes have radon.  I have a brand new home.”

Home age has nothing to do with how much radon is inside.  If anything, newer, “tighter” homes are more susceptible to trapping radon.  That is, unless you’ve built radon-ready.  Watch tutorial videos below or visit this page to learn more about building a radon-ready home.

“My home came with a passive radon system.  I don’t need to test.”

Many home-builders are building “radon-ready” homes.  Radon-ready, once called a “passive system”, simply means that if high radon is found, mitigation is simple.  If you have never tested your home, you simply don’t know how much radon is inside.  If you bought a home with an existing system, you won’t know if it’s actually working unless you test.  Very few states require licensing and follow up testing for radon contractors.  Unfortunately, there are some bad apples out there.  Test your home when you move in and test it every two years thereafter to make sure you’re still safe.  A $15 test could save a loved ones’ life!  CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT RED FLAGS ON EXISTING SYSTEMS.

“I’ve heard about radon caves and baths.  Aren’t those good for you?”

No.  There is no scientific evidence supporting radon inhalation therapy.  I can’t say it any better than this medical doctor.