Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, radioactive gas. It is the only gas that is considered to be a health hazard due to it's radioactivity. Radon is considered by the United States Surgeon General to be the second leading cause of lung cancer, behind smoking. So where does radon come from then?
Radon is a naturally occurring chemical element that is radioactive, colorless, odorless, and tasteless. Radon occurs naturally as radium and uranium decay. The decay product resulting is radium. The decay product resulting from the decay of radium is radon.
Now that we have discussed what radon is, how do we test for it? There are many ways to test for radon, and even more types of equipment and specifications for that equipment. It can be mind boggling to try to learn about how equipment works and the different test methods. The two most commonly used test methods for testing radon in the air are the use of charcoal canisters, or continuous electronic monitors. It is not feasible for most people to own a continuous electronic monitor due to the very high cost of these monitors. Electronic radon monitors are expensive, require annual calibration, and require specific training to use. Charcoal canisters are cheaper, but accuracy may not be to the same level as electronic monitors, and the test results take longer to get. Radon testing professionals use electronic monitors for this very reason. At Sodak Elite Home Inspections, I use the latest, state of the art monitors from Accustar Labs and have the equipment calibrated every year. This way you know that you are getting accurate results.
So you are now ready to test for radon either with your home inspection, or without. What do you do? First, contact me to set up a date and time. When performed along with a home inspection I personally prefer to install the radon monitor 48 hours or more before the inspection, so that the radon test results are done at the inspection and you can get your inspection report and radon report all emailed at the same time. Then I will set the radon monitor up in the lowest occupied level of the home being tested and turn the monitor on.
Now we have results. I as the IAC2 certified radon testing professional, will take the monitor back to my office and connect to the results and report software to generate a report that will be emailed to you. Instant results of the average can be printed on site during the inspection, with the full report to come later.
The U.S. EPA recommends radon levels not be above 4 picocuries/liter. If the results show a level above 4 pCi/L and it was a short term test, the recommendation is to either perform another short term test to validate the results, or perform a long term test to get a more accurate representation of the radon in the home. Mitigation is recommended for radon levels above 4 pCi/L.
So that's how radon testing works, in a nutshell. In the future I will cover mitigation systems and some of the ways that we lower radon levels inside a home. For now, remember to test for radon, and be certain to hire an IAC2 certified inspector to do the test. That way you know you are getting reliable results.