Is Testing Air And Water for Radon Gas Important?

Testing Air and Water for Radon Gas

Radon Gas occurs in many parts of the U.S. and the world. Because it can not be detected by our senses; sight, smell, taste, hearing or touch it is one of the contaminants not always thought of.

Is testing air and water for Radon Gas important? Yes, since Radon Gas is a silent and deadly danger to everyone exposed to it and is undetectable to the five human senses. Every State has areas of elevated Radon Levels and one out of five homes can have elevated levels so testing for Radon Gas is important.

Since Radon Gas is a proven carcinogen, an agent that causes cancer, testing for it's presence can be one of the most important considerations you make when looking for Country or Homestead Property.

Radon's Characteristics

Radon Gas is a radioactive breakdown product of uranium that has no odor or taste. Radon is a single molecule gas. Most gases are made up of at least two molecules. Partially because of it's single molecule configuration, Radon Gas can easily penetrate common materials such as paper, plastic bags and leather.

Radon Gas also easily penetrates the following construction materials: most paints, sheet rock, concrete blocks, mortar, roofing (tar) paper, wood paneling and most types of insulation.

Children, who have a faster rate of breathing and have faster dividing cells due to the fact that they are growing, can be more sensitive to Radon than adults.

According to Radon.com every State in the U.S. has areas of elevated Radon levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that as many as 8 million homes in the U.S. have elevated Radon levels. Surveys of States show that as many as 1 home in 5 has elevated Radon Levels.

The Surgeon General of the U.S. estimates that as many as 20,000 lung cancer deaths a year are caused by Radon. Radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer, trailing only cigarette smoking.

If a family member smokes and there is radon in the air of the house, they stand an excellent chance of getting lung cancer. Radon, like cigarette smoke, is an insidious poison. You can be exposed to it for a long time without developing any symptoms of lung problems.

But did you know that Radon Gas can also contaminate well water? When this water is ingested over a period of time it can cause stomach cancer. Well water contaminated with Radon can give off it's Radon into the air.

Because of this, the breathing of Radon causes more numerous problems than the ingestion of Radon in water does. Thus the incidence of lung cancer from Radon is much higher than the incidence of stomach cancer from Radon.

Uranium can be found in the water, rocks and soil in many areas of the U.S. and other parts of the world. When uranium breaks down to Radon Gas the gas can collect in pockets underground.

The Radon concentration can vary widely in even adjoining properties. This means that adjoining properties can be Radon Free yet a property between them can have very high levels of Radon Gas present.

It Is Important To Test For Radon

The US EPA, Surgeon General, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, and National Safety Council recommend testing your home for Radon. Testing is the only way to know if your home contains Radon. 

Because there are no immediate symptoms that will alert you to the presence of Radon it can take years of exposure before any problems surface.

Many Country and Homestead Properties get their water from a well. Well water contaminated with Radon can release Radon Gas into the air. So if the presence of Radon Gas is found in a test of the air the well water needs to be tested for Radon also.

It is reasonable to test the air for Radon presence first. If a Radon test of the air comes back negative, you should not have to test the well water for Radon contamination.

Water contaminated with Radon releases Radon Gas into the air. If the test for Radon in the air is negative, the well water is likely free of Radon contamination.

Home Testing Kits for Radon in the air are inexpensive and can be ordered online. Query "Home Radon Testing Kits." Testing Kits for Radon in Water are likewise inexpensive and can be ordered online. Query "Radon In Water Test Kits."

These test kits come with instructions on how to collect the samples of air or water. The kits include containers for the air or water samples. There are instructions on where to send the samples for testing and how to get the test results.

How To Test For Radon

Because of time constraints, home buyer's typically use short term tests that collect samples for 48 to 96 hours. Home owner's typically use long-tern collection devices that collect samples for up to 90 days. These long-term collection devices can give a more accurate picture of the Radon levels in the home.

The EPA recommends performing Radon tests on the lowest level of the home currently used for living. Do not test for Radon in a kitchen, bathroom, laundry room or hallway. Drafts of air and higher humidity in these rooms can affect the test results. Windows and doors to the tested room should be kept shut except for normal entry and exit.

For short-term testing, 48-96 hour kits, windows and outside doors should be closed for at least 12 hours before beginning the test. Short-term test kits should not be used during times of high humidity, high winds or severe storms.

The testing device (collection container) should be at least 20 inches off the floor to lessen the effects of drafts, high humidity and to lessen the chances of it being disturbed.

Follow the directions for recording the starting and ending times for the test. Some testing companies recommend doing two 48 hour tests back-to-back to establish more accurate Radon levels when doing short-term tests.

If you are doing a short-term Radon test on an occupied house you are considering purchasing there is the possibility of non-compliance with the testing procedures by the home owner. You may get better results by doing two separate 48 hour tests a week apart.

In this case you should be just as concerned with the presence of Radon Gas as with the amount of Radon Gas present. The presence of Radon Gas maybe reason enough to not purchase that particular property.

When testing a home you are considering buying, the Radon water test can not be tampered with. You merely collect a sample and send it in. If you suspect tampering with an air collection sample or non-compliance with the testing conditions, a water sample may help you decide whether or not you are interested in the house.

Acceptable Radon Level In The Home

The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, recommends you install a system to reduce radon gas in your home if the level of gas is 4 picocuries of radon per liter (pCi/L) or higher.

Reducing Radon Gas in Your Home

A variety of methods can be used to reduce radon gas levels in your home. Sealing cracks in floors and walls with construction materials that Radon does not penetrate can help. The best way to reduce Radon Gas is by increasing ventilation through sub-slab depressurization. This process uses pipes and fans to remove Radon Gas..

This is not always a simple or inexpensive solution. The EPA recommends only using a state or nationally certified contractor. Only a certified contractor has the technical expertise and special skills needed to effectively lower Radon Gas in a home.

Look for a contractor who is certified by:

Cost Of Reducing Radon From The Air Under Your Home

The cost varies with the home's design, size, foundation, construction materials and the local climate. Costs nationally (U.S.) average $1,200-$1,500 with a range from $1,000 to $2,000. The fans in the system are usually warrantied for 5 years with the fans lasting from 10-15 years. Part of the cost can depend upon how the system is concealed.

A retrofitted system that is routed outside the house reduces Radon nicely. The most visually pleasing systems are routed through an interior closet.

Costs to operate the system include electricity for the fan (about the same as having a 60-90 watt light bulb burning 24/7). There can be additional costs related to heating and cooling the air removed from the home by the radon system.

This cost can be minimized by effectively sealing the foundation, cracks in a slab floor or other areas where unheated in winter or hot air in summer can enter the basement or crawl space.

 Removing Radon From Water

Removing Radon from water is a much more expensive undertaking than removing Radon from the air. There are 2 main ways of removing Radon from water; Granular Activated Carbon Filters and Aeration.

Granular Activated Carbon Filters

These filters are installed before Radon contaminated water enters the home. They remove up to 95% of the Radon from the water. This is a simple method. Filters are not prone to breakage and releasing Radon. The filters are easy to install. Cost of this system can be as much as $4,000.

Long-term challenges of filters include the longer they filter Radon, the more radioactive the filters become. When enough Radon is filtered out of the water, professional assistance and special equipment is needed to remove and dispose of the filters. This is not a do it yourself procedure!

Filters that remove Radon from the water faucets are not recommended! They leave other sources such as showers and toilets unprotected which can release Radon into the air inside the house.

Aeration

Aeration removes Radon Gas from water by blowing air though the water and venting the resultant water vapor away from the home by a roof top vent pipe.

There are 2 different types of aerators; one has an air source at the bottom of a water storage tank and the other utilizes air as the tank is filled. Both Aeration Systems force air through the water in the tank and out through a roof vent pipe. Either type of Aeration System can remove up to 99% of Radon from well water.

An Aeration System costs more to install than the filtering system. The cost can run as high as $12,000 but the long-term cost is less, no special equipment or professional assistance needed to change and dispose of filters.

Remember

If you have a Country or Homestead Home that has a Radon problem, it needs to be fixed! If you are looking for a Country or Homestead Home you need to know, ahead of time, if there is a Radon problem. This will require testing before purchasing.

Put a clause in the purchase contract that if testing shows the presence of Radon in the air or water you can cancel the contract and get back any money spent. (Such as earnest money put down with the contract).

Another option is for the Seller to fix the problem to your satisfaction at Seller's cost before Closing.

If you live on a Country or Homestead Property that has not been tested for Radon, it is not expensive to test for Radon in the air and Radon in the water. If Radon is found, have the problem fixed.

You will be healthier for fixing it! If the property is ever put up for sale, the fact that a Radon problem has been addressed and fixed will make it easier to sell!

About The Author

John Brownlee

A retired Lawyer and Health Care Provider, he teaches people how to locate, evaluate, and purchase Country and Homestead Property. He and his wife, Linda, have taught hundreds of people how to suture wounds in an emergency. He teaches both Preparedness and Health Care Classes and has been a Presenter at Sustainable Preparedness Expos. He holds a General Ham Radio Operator's License.