According to The EPA,

radon in indoor air is

responsible for over

20,000 lung cancer deaths

every year, second only to

smoking.  Various studies

over the years performed on

underground workers and

residential homes have linked radon

and lung cancer. 

Although EPA findings and recommendations seem to be frequently under dispute, it is unlikely that they will change or reduce any of their guidelines regarding indoor air quality; indeed it is more likely that there will be a trend toward more awareness and regulation in this area. 

Ultimately, radon in homes is a health issue, but sometimes it seems more connected to real estate transactions.  Frequently people will have the radon tested in a home they want to buy, but have never been concerned about testing the home they live in.

The EPA would love every home to be tested, and mitigated if necessary, but many people would rather not know whether their house has a radon problem. Testing can be like deciding whether or not to go to the dentist or doctor to see if you have a problem, even though you feel fine.

Radon, a colorless, odorless gas created by the natural breakdown of uranium, comes from out of the ground, is everywhere, including the front yard, and buildings can trap it.  The question isn't "is it there?" but "how much is there?"  EPA guidelines have set a threshold of 4.0 picocuries (trillionth of a curie) per liter of air and above, as the "action" level at which the risk for health problems is increased, therefore recommending mitigation of the problem.  This level was chosen due to the fact that most mitigation strategies can achieve it, with relative ease and lower expense. 

Radon mitigation average costs are $1500 to $2000, so it has become a matter of who pays for this in a real estate transaction.  Ideally, all homeowners would test their own home as accurately as possible, and maintain the documents necessary to demonstrate the radon level in the home.

Testing for radon is easy with a do-it-yourself kit,  the most accurate and reliable method being a long term test lasting 12 months, over all four seasons, costing between $30 and $50.  The level of radon in any room can fluctuate greatly hour to hour, day to day, affected by weather and house conditions, so the longer the test the better, yielding an average reading over time.  There is also no need to keep the building closed in the warmer months during a long term test, as is necessary for a short term test.

Testing kits vary in cost and quality, and consumer advocacy organizations have tried and compared several manufacturers for performance and accuracy. It's worth checking online for these comparisons because the accuracy of the test results can be off up to 40% in some cases, a significant amount. 

Few real estate transactions have the time for a long term test, so short term testing, up to 3 months, but usually only the minimum 48 hours  is used.  In this case, "closed building" conditions are required, meaning that all windows and doors are kept closed for 12 hours before the test begins and for at least 48 hours during the test, except for coming and going. 

In all cases of short term testing, the results are only a snapshot in time of the radon level in the home, and should be backed up by a long term test if possible.  Radon levels tend to be higher in the lower levels of the building, closer to the ground. The EPA recommends testing in the lowest level of the home that could be used regularly, whether it is finished or unfinished. In some cases this decision is up to the potential buyer of the home, since only they would be able to make the determination of where they will spend time.

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Sun Nuclear 1027

Continuous radon monitor