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How Do I Test for Radon in My Home?

  • January 27, 2020

Testing your home for radon is an extremely easy and inexpensive thing for homeowners to do that can drastically reduce the future potential for lung cancer in you and your family. Knowledge of what is in the air in your home, even if you can’t see it, can give you the tools you need to make decisions regarding mitigation of radon gas if it is present. While potentially having radon is an easy problem to ignore since there are no immediate effects or symptoms of exposure, ignoring the possibility and not having your house tested could be setting your family and yourself up for future health problems in the decades to come. To help you in taking the first step in making sure your home is a safe place, here are some tips on how you can conduct radon testing yourself at home. If you would prefer to have a professional conduct the test, radon mitigation companies do offer this service.

  • Kits are available with everything you need to test your home for radon and they have excellent instructions to guide you along the way. These kits are made by a variety of companies and can be found in most home improvement and hardware stores. Most kits are very affordable and can be found for under $20. Some kits include the lab fee and others charge a separate fee. The most important thing to consider when choosing a kit is to make sure that the kit meets EPA standards. Within approximately two weeks of buying the kit, you should be able to have results and be able to assess your next steps.
  • Place your testing kit in a room on the first livable floor of your home. For example, if you have a family room in your basement, the kit should be placed in this room. If your basement is simply used for storage and nobody spends any significant time there, you should place it in a room on the first floor of your house. Try to avoid placing it in rooms where there may be significant moisture such as a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room. The best option is a room that you regularly spend time in such as a living room or bedroom.
  • Depending on the size of your home, you may need more than one kit. In a large house, radon levels can vary across the house depending on how the house was constructed. If your house is larger than 2,000 square feet, it is recommended that you use two kits in your house. Use the same guidelines as mentioned above such as staying away from rooms with moisture, but spread your kits out to get an accurate sample of both sides of your house.
  • Use your home like you normally would while you are testing for radon. Let your HVAC system heat or cool your house and continue to operate any radon mitigation systems that you already have installed. Make sure that you leave your windows and doors shut during the testing period so that the house doesn’t air out and show less radon than there actually is. It is fine to come and go from your house through the door, just don’t leave it open all day. The goal is to get a test sample that is accurate of what your house is like on a daily basis, not a sample that gives you the result you want to hear.
  • After you have completed your testing in your home, don’t waste any time getting the sample mailed out to the lab for analysis. The longer you wait to send the sample out, the less accurate your sample will be.
  • If your test results come back as 4pCi/L or higher, you need to take quick action to mitigate the radon in your home. These levels have been deemed to be unsafe by the EPA, and prolonged exposure could pose serious health consequences, such as a higher chance of developing lung cancer. Even if your results are less than this limit, you may want to consider a radon mitigation system anyway to reduce any levels of radon which are showing up in your home. No amount of radon is considered to be healthy.

By carefully following instructions, you can test your home and get a reasonably accurate estimate of whether you have a radon issue or not. If it is determined that you have unacceptable levels of radon in your home, the next step is to install a radon mitigation system. How this works is covered in our next blog post.

What Impact Can Radon Have on My Health?

  • January 25, 2020

One of the most common questions we get from homeowners is: what effect will radon have on my health? A question like this is very difficult to answer, because many factors impact the negative health effects of radon including the concentration of exposure, length of exposure and outside factors that act to increase the negative effects.  While we can’t predict the future and tell you what radon exposure will mean to your personally, there have been plenty of studies to show the dangers of radon and how they impact certain groups of people. In this article, we will discuss those effects, but first, we want to give a brief explanation of what radon is.

What is Radon?

Radon is a gas that is invisible, odorless and tasteless. Since it is formed from the decay of uranium, it is a radioactive element that carries the same dangerous properties as other radioactive elements like uranium and plutonium. As uranium breaks down and releases radon gas, it infiltrates through the ground and rises to enter our atmosphere. While radon exists in the air all around us, it doesn’t typically become a problem until it accumulates and becomes confined in a building such as a home, school or business. These buildings can accumulate radon at unsafe levels unless it is properly mitigated and removed from the building.

Lung Cancer Risks

In the United States, lung cancer remains one of the most dangerous forms of cancer with 5-year survival rates being very low when compared to other forms of cancer. It is estimated that after diagnosis, only 11 to 15 percent of patients will survive for five years or longer. Although the prognosis is bleak after being diagnosed with lung cancer, the upside is that lung cancer is highly preventable. The leading cause of lung cancer in the United States is due to smoking, which is 100% preventable. Radon exposure is the number two cause of lung cancer in the United States, and luckily, it is also highly preventable.

One study has estimated the number of deaths attributed to lung cancer from radon at 21,000 each year. This is a significant number of deaths across the country that could have been prevented with simple testing and mitigation.

One interesting fact about radon exposure is that smoking and radon actually work together to damage your body and are much more damaging when combined compared to their effects on their own. The risks of lung cancer and death increase substantially for a smoker who is exposed regularly to radon. The effect is synergistic, which means that the damage done together is greater than the sum of the two parts. To give you an example to put this in perspective, according to data from the EPA and CDC, if you are a smoker and exposed to 4 pCi/L of radon over your lifetime, your risk of cancer is approximately 5 times as much as your risk of dying in a car crash. On the other hand, if you don’t smoke and are only exposed to 4 pCi/L of radon over your lifetime, your chances of cancer are the same as your chances of dying in a car crash. The difference amounts to 5X more just from combining smoking with radon exposure!

Risks in Children

While the effects of radon exposure will typically not be observed until later in life, children are at an increased risk for lung cancer later on if they are exposed to radon as a child. The respiration rate of children is higher than that of adults, which could lead to more radon being inhaled. Their lungs are also smaller, which can increase the amount of damage due to exposure. When second-hand smoke and radon are combined, the risk of future cancer in children increases substantially. This synergistic effect is similar to that seen in adults where combining two carcinogens in your lungs leads to a greater possibility of developing lung cancer in the future.

Fortunately, the health effects associated with radon exposure can be nearly eliminated by properly mitigating radon within your home. While you cannot control if radon is found in the soil below your home, you can control where the gas goes when it gets to your home. For the health benefits that it provides, a radon mitigation system is a relatively inexpensive upgrade to your home that has the ability to keep you and your family safe from the health impacts of radon.

What Do I Do About Radon in My Home?

  • January 24, 2020

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After learning about the dangers of radon, you decided it would be a good idea to buy a kit and test your home. You paid attention to every detail and followed all of the instructions, took your sample, and then mailed it off to a lab to be analyzed. The next week or two can be difficult, waiting for the results to come back while not knowing what is lurking in the air that you are breathing in each and every day. Finally, you receive your results, and unfortunately, your home has elevated levels of radon! What do you do next? This is a problem that many homeowners face and we are there to help you!

DIY Project?

Through the internet, it seems like there isn’t much that you can’t teach yourself to do these days. Just do a quick Google search or type in what you want to do in YouTube, and instantly, you have access to tons of information or videos to guide you through the process. Radon mitigation systems are no exception, and you will find plenty of information out there on how to install a system yourself. Although there is some useful information out there, installing a radon mitigation system yourself is not something we recommend the average homeowner to do. Installing a complex system such as this is much more complicated than most simple household repairs, such as patching drywall. This is an area where you want an expert doing the work, similar to when you install a new roof or heating/cooling system. Although it will cost a little more to hire a professional, it could wind up paying for itself if you try to install a system yourself that doesn’t end up lowering your radon levels and have to do it again.  With the variation found in home construction, it is wise to allow an expert to determine the best method to remove the radon from your home.

Here are a few methods to consider when looking to mitigate radon from your home:

Sub Slab Depressurization (SSD)

This is the most common form of mitigation that is used to remove radon. The system is more or less made up of PVC pipe and a fan. While the materials are fairly simple and uncomplicated, properly installing them requires experience and expertise. SSD involves drilling holes through the basement floor to capture all of the underground air in PVC pipes and pump it outside of the home with a fan. The method of venting this contaminated air can vary, but the overall goal is to eliminate it up and out of the house. It can be vented through a garage, through an attic vent or outside through a pipe that extends to the roof. The important thing is proper placement and sealing to avoid contaminated air entering your living spaces.

SSD With Crawlspace

This method is very similar to the standard SSD method used in a basement, but it is modified slightly to capture air from exposed soil in a crawlspace. In order to effectively capture all contaminated air within the crawlspace, a plastic liner is sealed onto the floor and walls. This allows a PVC pipe to be inserted under the plastic to capture all of the air and pump it out of the house with a fan system similar to a standard SSD system. In addition to removing radon, this system also has the benefit of dehumidifying your crawlspace by pumping moisture out of the area.


Sealing of homes and foundations has been tested extensively by the EPA to prevent radon infiltration, and no method has been found to reduce levels permenantly by sealing alone. Even by applying epoxies and other coatings, radon has still managed to infiltrate into homes. While sealing holes is a good start to reducing radon, it is most likely not sufficient to completely eliminate the hazard.

Air Exchangers

For complex homes that won’t allow for the installation of a SSD system, air exchangers are an option. This system uses fans to pull fresh air in one side of the house and a fan to expel it out the other side. While this option does not reduce the amount of radon entering your home, it dilutes the air in your home to try and bring it within acceptable limits. This option is typically used as a last resort, only when a SSD system won’t work.

Since there are several options to reduce or remove radon from your home, it is recommended to have a professional formulate a plan for how to best eliminate radon and bring your air levels back to safe limits for you and your family.

What is Radon?

  • January 24, 2020

Radon is one of those words that strikes fear into the hearts of most homeowners when they hear the mention of it, but often, we don’t really understand what radon is and what our risk is. Over the past decade, government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and media outlets have made the public aware of the significant dangers of radon, and this has gone a long way in helping to mitigate a hazard that is damaging the health of people in their own homes. We want you to be safe and healthy in your home, so here is some information about radon and what is means to you.

All About Radon

Radon is an invisible, odorless and tasteless gas that is emitted from the ground and has the potential to be found in homes, schools and businesses. It is a radioactive gas and is formed when radioactive elements, such as uranium, break down and decay, releasing a gas through the ground. Since radon is radioactive, it is in the same class of materials used in nuclear power, medicine and weapons. Radioactive elements are known to cause cancer in humans through both high doses over a short time period and low doses over an extended time period. Radon gas is typically released in relatively low levels and can produce negative health effects when exposed to over a long period of time.

The most common health implication for long-term radon exposure is lung cancer. Radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, second only to smoking. Radon is able to cause lung cancer in those who have never smoked, but when smoking is combined with radon exposure, the risk of lung cancer increases significantly.

A lack of symptoms by those living in the home does not indicate the absence of radon. Since the gas cannot be physically seen or observed, it is possible to live in a home for decades without ever knowing that radon is present. As it often takes many years for mutations to occur in our bodies due to the radioactive nature of radon, the presence of cancer symptoms is typically indicative of long-term exposure to radon gas.

To help determine what levels of radon are considered safe in your home, the EPA has set a standard at which homeowners should take action to reduce radon levels. Tests which reveal radon levels of 4pCi/L or higher indicate that immediate action should be taken by homeowners to lower the levels of radon to ensure the health and safety of occupants. While this is the limit set by the EPA, no amount of radon is considered to be healthy, so mitigation could be considered in homes below this threshold.

Where is it Found?

If you live in the United States, there is a chance that radon gas could be present in your home. Radon has been found in varying levels in all 50 states. Some areas have higher average concentrations of radon, such as the Midwest and Northeast, but there are no states that are exempt from the possibility of radon.  Just because the average concentration of radon for a state is low or within acceptable limits does not mean that the radon levels within a particular house are within those same acceptable limits. This average level per state means that some homes have higher levels while others have lower levels.

While radon levels can vary significantly by state, they can also have a wide range within a given locality. Big differences in radon levels can even show up between neighboring houses. Just because your neighbor tested their home and no problem was found does not necessarily mean that your home is safe also. The only way to know for sure that your home is safe from radon is to test your home.

How Does Radon Enter My Home?

Since radon is a gas, it has the ability to easily move up through soils and enter your home from the ground. It can enter through most any building material, including concrete, block, wood and drywall. While it will flow most easily through cracks within your home, it has the ability to enter through even the most tightly sealed homes and can actually seep through solid concrete. No building material is resistant to being penetrated by radon.

Since radon can penetrate all building materials and it is impossible to stop the infiltration of the gas into your home, the best option is to detect if radon is present and effectively mitigate the hazard by removing the gas from your home. As we continue this series on our blog, we will be discussing how to properly test for and mitigate radon in your home.