Radon – Does My Home Have It and What Do I Do If It Does?

I have been getting this question asked allot lately: Do I have Radon in my house? It’s really an easy question to answer; I can’t tell without having a Radon test conducted. So let’s begin the short task of explaining Radon, how can it be tested, and what can be done to mitigate it.

Radon is a cancer- causing natural radioactive gas that you can not see, smell or taste. If it is in your home it can pose a health risk to you and your family. Radon is formed by the decay of radium in the ground and is one of the heaviest gases at room temperature known to man. Surprisingly, it could be in your home and not your neighbors. There is no “set” boundaries of where Radon is or isn’t.

It was first discovered in 1900 with the first major studies in Bohemia and then the Southwestern United States during the early Cold War due to uranium mining. Further evidence of Radon in mining was the exposure to miners in the Four Corners region noticed an increase in lung cancer and other pathologies in the mid 1950s. The dangers of radon exposure in dwellings were discovered in 1984 in Pennsylvania. Sadly, Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the USA and claims about 21,000 lives annually.

If one can’t taste it, smell it or see it, how can it be tested for? There are a variety of tests which can be conducted to determine if there is Radon in your home. They range from home test kit canisters which measure the amount of Radon in the home from a few days to 90 days to monitors, which are in place for at least 48 hours. Monitors use the closed building type of test, utilize at least two monitors and are set to take an air sample every three hours during the testing period and give results at the end of the test. For the best accuracy and reliability, the monitor style of testing in the preferred method. If your home is in a real estate transaction the only test accepted, at least in Illinois, is the monitor type.

When the test results are determined to be 3.9 picocuries and below, no mitigation is needed. However, if the readings come in above that number, than mitigation is recommended. Radon mitigation can run from $800 to $1200 and can be completed in a day or two. Mitigation can be performed by an individual home owner following exact procedures, but is strongly discouraged. When hiring a mitigation company, the rule is that company cannot test for Radon. The actual testing must be done by a separate company. And vice versa, a testing company cannot mitigate for Radon.

If you’re concerned about Radon in your home, be sure to have it tested. If you do not have it tested, it will be a guessing game if you have it or you don’t.