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Download Frequently Asked Questions and Answers about Radon Mitigation

What is radon
Radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive soil gas. It is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Radon is estimated to cause thousands of deaths each year. When you breathe radon-contaminated air, you are increasing your risk of lung cancer. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today--just behind smoking. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

What is a "picocurie" (pCi/L)?
A picocurie represents radon measurement units. By definition, one picocurie is 2.22 disintegrations per minute within a liter of air. 

Radon Information: Myth or Fact?

Myth or Fact? Scientists aren't really sure if radon is a problem. This is a MYTH! 
FACT:     Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control, 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 or Fact? 
Radon testing is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. This is a MYTH! 
FACT:     Radon testing is inexpensive and easy - it should take only a little of your time.

Myth or Fact? 
Radon test kits are not reliable and are difficult to find. This is a MYTH! 
FACT:     Reliable test kits are available through the mail, in hardware stores and other retail outlets. Call your state radon office for a list of test kits companies that have met EPA requirements for reliability or are state-certified.

Myth or Fact? 
Homes with radon problems can't be fixed. This is a MYTH! 
FACT:     There are simple solutions to radon problems in homes. Thousands of homewoners have already fixed radon problems in their homes. Radon levels can be readily lowered for about $500 to $2,500. Call your state radon office for a list of contractors that have met EPA requirements or are state-certified.

Myth or Fact? 
Radon only affects certain kinds of homes. This is a MYTH! 
FACT:     House construction can affect radon levels. However, radon can be a problem in homes of all types: old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements, or homes without basements.

Myth or Fact? 
Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country. This is a MYTH! 
FACT:     High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know your radon level is to test.

Myth or Fact? 
A neighbor's test result is a good indication of whether your home has a problem. This is a MYTH! 
FACT:     It's 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 or Fact? 
Everyone should test their water for radon. This is a MYTH! 
FACT:     While radon gets into some homes through the water, you should first test the air in your home for radon. If you find high levels and your water comes from a well, contact a lab certified to measure radiation in water to have your water tested.

Myth or Fact? 
It's difficult to sell homes where radon problems have been discovered. This is a MYTH! 
FACT:     Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked or frustrated. The added protection is, sometimes, a good selling point!

Myth or Fact? 
I've lived in my home for so long, it doesn't make sense to take any action now. This is a MYTH! 
FACT:     You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you've lived with a radon problem for a long time.

Myth or Fact? 
Short-term tests can't be used for making a decision about whether to fix your home. This is a MYTH! 
FACT:     A short-term test followed by a second short-term test may be used to decide whether to fix your home. However, the closer the average of your two short-term tests is to 4pCi/L, the less certain you can be about whether your year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk. Radon levels can be reduced in most homes to 2 pCi/L or below.

Why is Radon System's test better than others?
Regardless of the radon test method used (active or passive), the purpose of any radon test is to identify elevated radon levels. At Radon Systems, we use Femto-Tech continuous radon monitors, which are active tests. These state-of-the-art radon monitors provide an accurate 48-hour radon test. Additional data such as barometric pressure, relative humidity, temperature, and tampering are also indicated on the printout, which is available on site. Because of these advantages, and a requirement to be licensed to conduct the test, using a continuous radon monitor is always more accurate, quicker, and more expensive than a passive radon test.
Passive radon testing devices do not need power to function. These include charcoal canisters, alpha-track detectors, charcoal liquid scintillation devices, and electret ion chamber detectors, which are available in hardware, drug, and other stores—they can also be ordered by mail or phone. These devices are exposed to the air in the home for a specified period of time and then sent to a laboratory for analysis.

I did my own radon test. Are the radon test results accurate?

Answer: Yes, providing you follow the instructions that comes with your test kit. If you are doing a short-term test close your windows and outside doors and keep them closed as much as possible during the test period. Heating and air conditioning fans that re-circulate may be operated. Do not operate fans or other machines which bring air in from outside. Fans that are part of a radon reduction system should be operating during the test. EPA recommends the following steps:

Step 1. Take a short-term test. If your result is 4 pCi/l or higher, take a follow up test (step 2) to be sure.

Step 2. Follow up with either a long-term test or a second short-term test. For a better understanding of your year -round average radon level, take a long-term test. If you need results quickly, take a second short-term test.

Step 3. If you followed up with a long- term test: Fix your home if your long-term test result is 4 pCi/l or more. If you followed up with a second short term test: The higher your Short-term resuls, the more certain you can be that you should fix your home. Consider fixing your home if the average of your first and second test is 4 pCi/l or higher.

What do my radon test result mean?
Answer: The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/l, and about 0.4 pCi/l
of radon is normally found in the outside air. The U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor
radon levels be no more than outside levels. While this goal is not yet technologically achievable in all
cases, most homes today can be reduced to 2 pCi/l or below.
Sometimes short-term tests are less definitive about whether or not your home is above 4 pCi/l.
This can happen when your results are close to 4 pCi/l. For example, if the average of your two shortterm
measurements is 4.1 pCi/l, there is about a 50% chance that your year-round average is somewhat
below 4 pCi/l. However, EPA believes that any radon exposure carries some risk-no level of radon is
safe. Even radon levels below 4 pCi/l pose some risk, and you can reduce your risk of lung cancer by
lowering your radon level.
If your living patterns change and you begin occupying a lower level of your home (such as a
basement) you should retest your home on that level. Even if your test result is below 4 pCi/l, you may
want to test again sometime in the future.

My house was closed- up. Does that make the radon test results higher?
Answer: No, the purpose of a short-term radon test is to identify elevated radon level while the home is
occupied under closed-house conditions. When the house is ventilated the radon is naturally reduced
by dilution. Therefore, during periods of cold or harsh weather when home occupants spend the most
time inside the radon level increase. Since the short-term radon test is considered a screening
measurement, these tests are always made during closed house conditions. Radon levels will increase
when a house is occupied due to the increase use of appliances that circulate air mechanically and alters
house inside pressures, fans, clothes dryers and fireplaces, downdraft ranges, whole house fans and
other similar appliances.

I have a new house, so can I have a radon problem?
Answer: House construction can affect radon levels. However, radon can be a problem in homes of all
types: old homes, new homes, drafty homes, industrial homes, insulated homes, homes with
basements, homes without basements. Local geology, construction materials, and how the home was
built are among the factors that can affect the radon levels. Many new homes are built with radon
resistant features that can allow for adding a radon fan if needed after completion. Ask your builder
about this construction technique or call your local health department for information.

Could my granite countertops be a significant radon gas source in my house?
Answer: Radon Risk. The primary concern about indoor radon gas is the increased risk of lung
cancer that exists from breathing radon and its byproducts. The magnitude of the risk depends on the
radon concentration of the air you breathe and how long you are breathing it. Radon gas is a serious
national concern. The risk of radon-related lung cancer increases the longer you are exposed although
any exposure to radon gas poses some risk.
Testing for radon in the air you breathe should be a high priority and the first step for anyone concerned
about radon gas. The US Surgeon General, US EPA., AARST and the American Lung Association
recommend that all homes be tested for radon gas.At this time, the EPA does not believe sufficient data
exists to conclude that the types of granite commonly used in countertops are significantly increasing
indoor radon levels.
Radon Sources Including Granite:
Soil, sand and rock underneath the home are the primary sources of indoor radon gas. The soil under
the house always contains traces of uranium that eventually decays directly into radon. This soil
constitutes an enormous surface area for release of radon gasinto the air and into the buildings.
Materials inside a building such as concrete, granite, slate, marble, sand, shale and other stones can also
contain traces of radium that release radon with varying intensities. While natural rocks such as granite
may emit some radon gas, the subsequent levels of radon in the building that are attributes to such
sources are not typically high. The contribution from building materials to the indoor radon
concentration is very dependent on the building ventilation rate.