Fifty-five percent of our exposure to natural sources of radiation usually comes from radon. Radon is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless gas that comes from the decay of uranium found in nearly all soils. Levels of radon vary throughout the country. Radon is found all over the United States at various levels. Scientists estimate that nearly one out of every 15 homes in this country has radon levels above the recommended action levels. According to the recent E.P.A. map of Radon Zones, East Tennessee is considered as Zone 1, an area with a High Risk Factor (http://www.epa.gov/radon/zonemap.html).
Radon usually moves from the ground up and migrates into homes and other buildings through cracks and other holes in their foundations. The buildings trap radon inside, where it accumulates and may become a health hazard if the building is not properly ventilated.
When you breathe air containing a large amount of radon, the radiation can damage your lungs and eventually cause lung cancer. Scientists believe that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. It is estimated that 7,000 to 30,000 Americans die each year from radon-induced lung cancer. Only smoking causes more lung cancer deaths and smokers exposed to radon are at higher risk than nonsmokers. Testing your home is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon.
Testing for radon comes in two forms: active and passive. Active devices constantly measure the levels of radon in a portion of the home and display those results. Passive devices collect samples over a period of time and then are sent to a lab to be analyzed. Either method can help you determine your level of risk.
We perform radon testing with an E.P.A. approved Professional Continuous Monitor. This device is placed at the lowest potential livable space in the home and is left for a minimum of 48 hours. Results are collected at the end of the test period, downloaded to a computer, printed and sent out the same day as they are collected. Documentation provides a numeric and bar graph of radon concentrations for every hour that the monitor was in place.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General Strongly recommend taking further action when the home’s radon test results are 4.0 pCi/L or greater. The concentration of radon in the home is measured in picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L). The national average indoor radon level is about 1.3 pCi/L. The higher a home’s radon level, the greater the health risk to you and your family. Smokers and former smokers are at especially high risk. If high concentrations of radon are found,there are straightforward ways to fix a home’s radon problem that are not too costly. Even homes with very high levels can be reduced to below 4.0 pCi/L. EPA recommends that you use an EPA or State-approved contractor trained to fix radon problems.Typical radon mitigation systems can cost between $1,800 and $2,500, in our area.
If you're buying or selling a home, radon can be a significant issue. Buyers should be aware of the radon risk and determine whether a radon test is desirable. When in doubt, the EPA always recommends testing. If you're selling a home, having a recent radon test is a great idea. By being proactive, you can assure potential buyers that there is no risk and avoid the issue from the start.
So whether the home your buying is old or new, has a basement or is on a slab, radon is a reality. But it is a reality that we can live with. Proper testing and mitigation, can eliminate radon as a health threat. For more information, call our office or visit the EPA web site on radon at http://www.epa.gov/radon.