Ask Maggie

Maggie has done a lot of reading of many of the available EPA documents and hopefully this may assist you in some of your questions.

 

 

 

 

 

Why should every home be tested for radon?

The EPA and the U. S. Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. Data gathered by the EPA national radon survey indicate that elevated radon levels are present in about six million (6,000,000) homes throughout the United States. In every state there are homes with dangerously high radon levels. Because the radon concentration inside a home is due to factors relating to its structure and geographic location, each individual home must be tested to determine its radon level. Two adjacent houses may have radically different radon levels. And any kind of home can have elevated levels -- new or old, drafty or well-sealed, and basement or non-basement.

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How does Radon enter my home?

Radon comes up through the soil and rocks surrounding your home and seeps through cracks in concrete walls and floors, floor drains, sump pumps, joints, and hollow-brick walls.

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Why haven't I heard of the radon danger until recently?

Radon has always existed. However, it was not until the 1980s that dangerous radon levels were found inside homes across the U.S.

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How do I know if I have radon in my home?

Since you cannot see or smell radon, special equipment is needed to detect it. When you're ready to test your home, you can order a radon test kit by mail from a qualified radon measurement services provider or laboratory. You can also hire a qualified radon tester who will use a radon device(s) suitable to your situation. You may want to check http://www.epa.gov/radon/proficiency.html or with your state radon office before you test to get the most up-to-date information.

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What are the health risks?

Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

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Where does radon come from?

Radon is a gas and comes up through the soil and rocks surrounding your home and seeps through cracks in concrete walls and floors, floor drains, sump pumps, joints, and hollow-brick walls.

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How do I test for radon?

Do it yourself with a kit. During a short-term test, doors and windows are closed twelve (12) hours prior to testing and throughout the testing period. (A short-term test lasting two (2) or three (3) days should not be conducted during unusually severe storms or periods of unusually high winds.) The test kit is placed in the lowest lived-in level of the home, at least twenty (20) inches above the floor, in a room that is used regularly, but not in the kitchen or bathroom where high humidity or the operation of an exhaust fan could affect the validity of the test. At the end of the test period, the kit is mailed to a laboratory for analysis; results are mailed back in a few weeks. In some cases, such as real estate transactions, "qualified" or state-certified contractors conduct the radon test. The EPA's pamphlet Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon, which addresses issues during real estate transactions, is also available from state radon offices. Magee says - If you feel more comfortable, have a nationally certified radon professional do the test to insure that EPA protocol has been followed without any deviations. The test is only as valid as the equipment used and the procedures followed.

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How are the test results interpreted?

1. If the short-term test result is 4 pCi/L or higher, conduct a follow-up test to confirm the results. 2. Follow-up with either a long-term test or a second short-term test. For a better understanding of the home's year-round average radon level, take a long-term test. If results are needed quickly, take a second short-term test. The higher the initial short-term result, the more certain the homeowner can be to conduct a short-term rather than a long-term follow-up test. If the first short-term test result is several times the action level - for example, about 10 pCi/L or higher - a second short-term test should be taken immediately

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What about the EPA 4 pCi/L radon action level - is that safe?

No radon level is considered "safe". The risk of developing lung cancer is directly proportional to the levels and duration of exposure to radon: the higher the radon concentration, the higher the lung cancer risk. The 4 pCi/L "Action Level" is based on current mitigation technology. Today, mitigation technology can almost always reduce high radon concentration levels to below 4 pCi/l and to 2 pCi/L or below 70-80 percent of the time. The average radon level in homes is about 1.25 pCi/L. Although Congress passed legislation in 1988 establishing a national goal that indoor radon levels not exceed ambient outdoor radon levels (0.2-0.7 pCi/L), this goal is not yet technologically achievable.

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If I have a problem, can it be corrected?

Yes. The use of trained personnel is recommended. State radon offices can recommend qualified contractors. In some cases, the problem can be treated by the homeowners if they have experience with other kinds of home repair.

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Why is radon dangerous?

You can't see or smell radon because it is a colorless, odorless gas. Radon is a decay product of uranium and occurs naturally in soil and rock, and therefore radon levels can vary home to home. Other sources of radon include well water and building materials. Radon is a radioactive gas and has been identified as a leading cause of lung cancer, second only to cigarette smoking in the United States. EPA's most recent health risk assessment estimates that 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year are due to radon.

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Will my neighbor's radon measurement indicate whether or not I have a radon problem?

No. Radon levels vary from house to house. The only way to know if you have a radon problem is to conduct a test.

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How do you obtain a reliable test result?

You can find out how to find a "qualified" Radon Service Professional in your area - http://www.epa.gov/radon/proficiency.html.

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Why don't I hear more about the importance of knowing my radon level?

January is National Radon Action Month. Since radon’s advent as a National health concern in the mid-1980s, the United States has made significant progress in reducing the risk from radon. This progress is the result of a long-term effort between EPA, citizens, non-profit organizations, state and local governments, the business community, and other Federal agencies working together. Since 1985, millions of homes have been tested for radon, and an estimated 800,000 homes have been mitigated. In addition, approximately 1.2 million new homes have been built with radon-resistant features since 1990. EPA will continue to focus its risk reduction on mitigating existing homes and building new homes radon-resistant. As a result of these actions through 2003, EPA estimates that as many as 650 future lung cancer deaths are prevented (lives saved) each year.

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