What is Radon?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, radon is a colorless and odorless naturally-occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer over time. Radon gas becomes trapped indoors after it enters homes or buildings through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Luckily, once found, indoor radon can be controlled and managed with proven, cost-effective techniques.
What Are the Dangers?
Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Nationally, the EPA estimates that about 21,000 people die each year from radon-related lung cancer. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths. Because radon gas is both colorless and odorless, it is impossible to detect without testing.
How Does Radon Get Into Your House?
Radon forms from the natural decay of uranium found in almost all soils. Radon is a radioactive gas that moves from soil into a home through cracks in the foundation or gas in walls or floors. It is then trapped in the house where it can build up to unhealthy levels. Radon can also enter a house through well water or in a very few homes, through building materials.
The Radon Program Development Act of 1987
In 1986, the EPA tested 11,600 homes over a 10 state area and found that one in five contained health-threatening levels of radon. Congress passed the Radon Program Development Act to shed light on the problem and set a goal that indoor air should be as free from radon as outdoor air (0.4 pCi/L). They asked the EPA to produce the Home Buyer’s and Seller’s Guide to Radon to inform the public about the health risks of radon.
Skepticism and New Facts
In 2017, Harvard University’s Department of Environment Health published an article stating that the EPA’s radon-induced lung cancer death may be exaggerated due to the failure to account for diesel engine exposure. Instead of the EPA’s original estimate of 21,000 lung cancer deaths a year, Harvard estimated the number was closer to 12,900-15,900 – still an alarming number.
In 1993, the EPA developed the Map of Radon Zones which better define areas that have potential for elevated indoor radon levels. Here is the map for Connecticut: Zone 1 has average radon levels greater than 4 pCI/L, Zone 2 typically has 2 to 4 pCI/L, and Zone 3 averages less than 2 pCI/L.
Should You Have a Test?
The EPA’s state maps show the average in each county and may not represent your exact area. If you are in Zone 1, it does not automatically mean your house has a large quantity of radon gas. Likewise, if you are in Zone 3, you are not necessarily in the clear. The EPA is just trying to help homeowners understand their risks and act accordingly.
How Do You Test for Radon?
Short-term tests can be a good first test to see if further testing is necessary. There are several types available. Long-term radon tests measure levels for 90 days giving a much more accurate reading. Based on alpha particle tracking, this longer term test accounts for day to day changes in the air such as a drop in air pressure, windy days, current soil moisture or even snow cover which traps radon gases and produces a temporary higher result. Last, there are eclectic monitors for continuous radon test that give running averages over longer periods of time.
Looking for a Professional?
Please contact Angell’s Home Inspection for any questions about radon testing in Connecticut. With over 5 years experience, this 5-star Google rated inspection company can help you make informed decisions about your indoor air quality. Please call (860) 402-6644 to learn more.