Radon is a naturally occurring, invisible, colorless, odorless, radioactive gas. Elevated levels have been found in homes in every state. Any home can have a problem (new or old homes, well-sealed or drafty homes, and homes with or without basements). The National Academy of Sciences estimates that radon, the second leading cause of lung cancer, causes between 15,200 and 28,000 lung cancer deaths per year in the U.S.
Common Myths About Radon
MYTH: Scientists are not sure that radon really is a problem.
FACT: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.
MYTH: Radon testing devices are not reliable and are difficult to find.
FACT: Radon testing can be conducted by a professionally trained EPA-listed or state-certified radon tester.
Active radon devices can continuously gather and periodically record radon levels to reveal any unusual swings in the radon level during the test.
Reliable testing devices are also available through the mail, in hardware stores and other retail outlets. Call your state radon office for a list of radon device companies that have met EPA requirements for reliability or are state-certified.
MYTH: Radon testing is difficult and time-consuming.
FACT: Radon testing is easy. You can test your own home or you can hire an EPA-listed or state-certified radon tester. Either approach takes only a small amount of the homeowner’s time or effort.
MYTH: Homes with radon problems cannot be fixed.
FACT: There are solutions to radon problems in homes. Thousands of home owners have already lowered elevated radon levels in their homes. Radon levels can be readily lowered for $500 to $2,500. Call your state radon office for a list of contractors that have met EPA requirements or are state-certified.
MYTH: Radon affects only certain types of homes.
FACT: Radon can be a problem in all types of homes such as old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements and homes without basements. Construction materials and the way the home has been built may also affect radon levels.
MYTH: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.
FACT: High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know the home’s radon level is to test.
MYTH: A neighbor’s test result is a good indication of whether your home has a radon problem.
FACT: It is not. Radon levels vary from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.
MYTH: Everyone should test his or her water for radon.
FACT: While radon gets into some homes through the water, it is important to first test the air in the home for radon. If high radon levels are found and the home has a well, you can find publications and documents developed by EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water relating to radon in drinking water and the radon in drinking water rule at http://www.epa.gov/safewater/radon.html.
MYTH: It is difficult to sell a home where radon problems have been discovered.
FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked. The added protection could be a good selling point.
MYTH: I have lived in my home for so long, it does not make sense to take action now.
FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you have lived with a radon problem for a long time.
MYTH: Short-term tests cannot be used for making a decision about whether to reduce the home’s high radon levels.
FACT: Short-term tests may be used to decide whether to reduce the home’s high radon levels. However, the closer the short-term testing result is to 4 pCi/L, the less certainty there is about whether the home’s year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk and that radon levels can be reduced in some homes to 2 pCi/L or below.
BEIR VI Radon Report
The National Academy of Sciences estimates that radon causes 15,400–21,800 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States.
In 1998, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) released the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation VI (BEIR VI) Report, which is to date, the most extensive and thorough study of health effects attributed to radon exposure and its decay products. The following are key pieces of information from the BEIR VI Radon Report.
- The NAS estimates that radon causes 15,400–21,800 lung cancer deaths per year in the U.S.
- Elevated levels of radon have been discovered in homes in every state.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General recommend testing homes for high levels of indoor radon.
- The average indoor radon level in U.S. homes is 1.3 picoCuries per liter of air (pCi/L).
- More than 1 million homes in the U.S. have radon levels above 8 pCi/L.
- More than 60,000 homes in the U.S. have radon levels above 20 pCi/L.
- Since 1988, more than 11 million homes have been tested; more than 300,000 homes have been corrected; and more than 1.3 million new homes have been built radon-resistant.
- The BEIR VI Report found that even very small exposures to radon can result in lung cancer. In fact, the NAS concluded that no evidence exists that shows a threshold of exposure below which radon levels are harmless.
- The BEIR VI Report concludes that many smokers will get lung cancer from exposure to radon, which exacerbates the effects of smoking.
- Committed to protecting the public’s health, the EPA has in place a voluntary program to locate homes with high levels of radon.
- There is no question that if you quit smoking, you will reduce your risk of lung cancer. But reducing radon exposure is another confirmed way to reduce lung cancer risk.
U.S. Inspect’s continuous radon monitor is the most accurate and reliable radon measurement device used today. U.S. Inspect ensures your safety and protection against radon!
Buying a New Home?
What is Radon?
Radon causes an estimated 14,000 lung cancer deaths each year. It is the earth’s only naturally produced radioactive gas and comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil, rock, and water. You cannot see or smell radon, but it can become a health hazard when it accumulates indoors. It can enter your home through cracks and openings in the foundation floor and walls. When radon decays and is inhaled into the lungs, it releases energy that can damage the DNA in sensitive lung tissue and cause cancer.
Why Buy a Radon-Resistant Home?
The Techniques Work
Simple and inexpensive techniques reduce radon levels on average by 50%. The techniques may also lower levels of other soil gases and decrease moisture problems.
It’s Cost Effective
Building in the features is much cheaper than fixing a radon problem later.
The techniques described here also make your home more energy efficient and could provide you an average of $65 savings per year in your energy costs.
Upgrading is Easy
If high levels of radon are found, a fan can easily be installed as part of the system for further radon reduction.
How Do the Costs Compare?
Average cost to install radon-resistant features in an existing home: $800 – $2,500
Average cost to install radon-resistant features during new home construction: $350 – $500
What are the Radon-Resistant Features?
The techniques may vary for different foundations and site requirements, but the basic elements are:
A. Gas Permeable Layer
This layer is placed beneath the slab or flooring system to allow the soil gas to move freely underneath the house. In many cases, the material used is a 4-inch layer of clean gravel.
B. Plastic Sheeting
Plastic sheeting is placed on top of the gas permeable layer and under the slab to help prevent the soil gas from entering the home. In crawlspaces, the sheeting is placed over the crawlspace floor.
C. Sealing and Caulking
All openings in the concrete foundation floor are sealed to reduce soil gas entry into the home.
D. Vent Pipe
A 3- or 4-inch gas-tight or PVC pipe (commonly used for plumbing) runs from the gas permeable layer through the house to the roof to safely vent radon and other soil gases above the house.
E. Junction Box
An electrical junction box is installed in case an electric venting fan is needed later.
Did You Know?
- Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking.
- High radon levels have been found in every state.
- Levels can vary widely, even from home to home in the same neighborhood.
- Radon levels can be lowered, and homes can be built radon-resistant.
What Can You Do?
Simple, inexpensive techniques can be used to lower radon levels and increase energy efficiency in your new home. Here are basic steps to follow when buying a new home.
- Check Your Area’s Radon PotentialFind out if you are buying a home in a high radon area. The Environmental Protection Agency’s map of radon zones shows which areas have the greatest potential for elevated indoor radon readings. Homes in places with high radon potential, called Zone 1 areas, should be built with radon-resistant features.
- Install a Radon Reduction SystemTalk to your builder about installing a radon reduction system. You can obtain free copies of the EPA’s Model Standards and architectural drawings and use them to explain the techniques to your builder. Let your builder know that the radon resistant features can be easily installed with common building practices and materials.
- Remember: Test Your HomeEvery new home should be tested for radon after occupancy. Test your home even if it has the radon resistant features. Test kits are inexpensive and may be purchased at your local hardware store. Or simply call the National Safety Council Radon Hotline at (800) SOS-RADON to order a test kit.
- If Radon Levels Are Still High, ActivateIf your home tests at 4.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or above, activate the system by installing an in-line fan. Call a local radon mitigator about installing the fan. Check with your state radon office for names of qualified or state certified radon contractors in your area.
Need More Information?
Many publications are available to you. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Home Buyers and Sellers Guide to Radon
- EPA’s Map of Radon Zones
- Model Standards and Techniques for Control of Radon in New Residential Buildings, developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the building industry with details on how to install radon-resistant techniques in your new home.
- Architectural Drawings of Radon-Resistant Construction Techniques [You can also download a PDF version of the drawings: “Passive Radon Control Systems for New Construction,” U.S. EPA, Indoor Environments Division, EPA 402-95012, May 1995. This PDF file includes (for one- and two-family dwellings): 1) Passive radon control system; 2) Crawlspace radon control system; and, 3) Additional fan for active system.]
Where To Find Free Information
National Service Center for Environmental Publications (NCEPI)
http://www.epa.gov/ncepihom/ (to order online)
Or call 1-800-490-9198
The Council of American Building Officials One- and Two-Family Dwelling Code Appendix F also details radon-resistant techniques. Call (708) 799-2300.
Order a kit to explain to your builder the radon resistant techniques from the National Association of Home Builders. Call the Home Builder Bookstoreexiting epaat 1-800-223-2665 and order “Building Radon Resistant Homes: A Builder’s Independent Study Kit.”