Myths or Facts
Myth #1: Scientists are not sure that radon really is a problem.
FACT: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (Center for Disease Control, American Lung Association, American Medical Association, etc.) 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. Radon is classified as a “Known Human Carcinogen.
Myth #2: Radon testing devices are not reliable and are difficult to find.
FACT: Reliable radon tests are available from qualified radon testers and companies. Active radon devices can continuously gather and periodically record radon levels to reveal any unusual swings in the radon level during the test. Reliable testing devices are also available by phone or mail-order, and can be purchased in hardware stores and other retail outlets.
Myth #3: Radon testing is difficult and time-consuming.
FACT: Radon testing is easy. You can test your home yourself or hire a qualified home inspection/radon test company. Either approach takes a small amount of time and effort.
Myth #4: Homes with radon problems cannot be fixed.
FACT: There are solutions to radon problems in homes. Thousands of home owners have already lowered their radon levels. Radon levels can be readily mitigated for between $800 and $2,500. Call your state radon office for a list of qualified mitigation contractors.
Myth #5: Radon only affects homes with basements.
FACT: Radon can be a problem in all types of homes, including old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements, homes with crawl spaces, homes built on a "Slab", and homes without basements. Local geology, construction materials, and how the home was built are among the many factors that can affect radon levels in homes.
Myth #6: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.
FACT: High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know a home's radon level is to test.
Myth #7: A neighbor's test result is a good indication of whether your home has a
FACT: It is not. Radon levels vary from home to home. The only way to know if a home has a radon problem is to test it.
Myth # 8: Everyone should test their water for radon.
FACT: While radon can get into some homes through the water, it is important to first test the air in your home for radon. If your water comes from a public water system that uses ground water, call your water supplier. If high radon levels are found and the home has a private well, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 for information on testing your water. Also, call your state radon office for more information about radon in air. More information about radon-in-water can be found in the Q&A below. 1st Option can assist you with radon-in- water testing
Myth #9: It is difficult to sell a home where radon problems have been discovered.
FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked. The added protection of a mitigation system will more likely be a good selling point.
Myth #10: I have lived in my home for so long, it doesn't make sense to take action now.
FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you have lived with an elevated radon level for a long time.
Myth #11: Short-term tests can't be used for making a decision about whether to reduce the home's high radon levels.
FACT: Short-term tests can be used to decide whether to reduce the home's high radon levels. However, the closer the short term testing result is to 4 pCi/L, the less certainty there is about whether the home's year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk and that radon levels can usually be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below in most homes.
Questions and Answers
RADON IN WATER
Why is radon in drinking water a health concern?
Breathing radon in indoor air can cause lung cancer. Radon gas decays into radioactive particles that can get trapped in your lungs when you breathe it. As they break down further, these particles release small bursts of energy. This can damage lung tissue and increase your chances of developing lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. People who smoke have an even greater risk. Not everyone exposed to high levels of radon will develop lung cancer. However, radon in indoor air is the second leading cause of lung cancer. It is believed that 21,000 to 25,000 deaths a year in the U.S. are caused by breathing radon in indoor air.
Only a few percent of radon in the air comes from drinking water. However, breathing radon released to air from tap water increases the risk of lung cancer over the course of your lifetime. Some radon stays in the water; drinking water containing radon also presents a risk of developing internal organ cancers, primarily stomach and other digestive system cancers. However, this risk of these cancers appears to be smaller than the risk of developing lung cancer from radon released to air from tap water.
Based on a National Academy of Science report, EPA estimates that radon in drinking water causes about 168 cancer deaths per year: 89% from lung cancer caused by breathing radon released to the indoor air from water and 11% from stomach cancer caused by consuming water containing radon.
Is there radon in my water?
If you get your water from a public water system that serves 25 or more year-around residents, you will receive an annual water quality report. A major public right-to-know initiative of the 1996 Amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act, these water quality reports will tell you what is in your water (including radon if it has been tested), where it comes from, and how to help protect it.
Not all drinking water contains radon. If your drinking water comes from a surface water source, such as a river, lake, or reservoir, most radon that might be in the water will be released into the air before reaching your water supplier or home. Radon is only a concern if your drinking water comes from underground, such as a well that pumps water from an aquifer, though not all water from underground sources contains significant amounts of radon it can be a concern and Well water should be tested for it.
What levels of radon in indoor air should I be concerned about?
There is no federal regulation for radon in indoor air. However, EPA does recommend that you take action to reduce your home's indoor radon levels if you test your home and find levels at or above 4 pCi/L (picoCuries per liter, a unit of measurement for radiation). EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General recommend that everyone test their homes (and apartments located below the third floor). In most homes, radon levels can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or less. In addition, new homes should be built radon resistant, especially in high radon areas.
For more information about how to test the air in your home for radon and fix the problem, contact 1st Option Radon Measurement at 440/213-7115 or you can call the Radon Hotline at 1-800-SOS-RADON.
How do I test for radon and how do I get rid of it?
Because radon in indoor air is the larger health concern, EPA recommends that you first test the air in your home for radon before testing for radon in your drinking water. EPA and the U.S. Surgeon General recommend testing all homes for radon in indoor air (and apartments located below the third floor). This testing can be performed by any Ohio Licensed radon professional. Many home inspector in Ohio are licensed to test for radon. Self test kits are available at local hardware and many big box stores or from the Ohio Department of Health. Contact the ODH Radon Program (1-800-523-4439). EPA recommends that you take action to reduce your home's indoor radon levels if your radon test result is 4 pCi/L or higher.
It should be pointed out that the EPA Action Level of 4.0 pCi/L is not a health based level. This level was developed because it is almost always a level that can be achieved with established mitigation techniques when performed by properly trained, licensed, or certified radon professionals. The EPA and ODH recommend that fixing radon levels in homes with levels between 2 and 4 pCi/L should be strongly considered by the home owner.
If you have tested the air in your home and found a radon problem, you may also want to find out whether radon in your water is a concern:
· If you get water from a public water system: Find out whether your water system gets its water from a surface (river, lake, or reservoir) or a ground water (underground) source.
· If the water comes from a surface water source, most radon that may be in the water will be released to the
air before it makes its way to your tap.
· If the water comes from a ground water source, call your water system and ask if they've tested the water for radon.
· If you have a private well: EPA recommends testing your drinking water for radon. Call the Safe Drinking Water
Hotline (1-800-426-4791). They can provide phone numbers for your State laboratory certification office or call the
Radon Hotline (1-800-SOS-RADON) which can provide phone numbers for your State radon office. Your State
laboratory certification office or State radon office can direct you to laboratories that may be able to test your drinking water for radon. Radon-in-water testing can be performed by 1st Option Radon Measurement (Call or send a request
at 440/213-7115; www.1stOptionRadon.com).
If testing your private well shows that you have high levels of radon in your drinking water and you are concerned about it, there are some things you can do to improve the water. The most effective treatment you can apply is to remove radon from the water right before it enters your home. There are two types of these “Point-of-entry” devices that remove radon from water:
· Granular activated carbon (GAC) filters (which use activated carbon to remove the radon), and
· Aeration devices (which bubble air through the water and carry radon gas out into the atmosphere through an
GAC filters tend to cost less than aeration devices, however, radioactivity collects on the filter, which may cause a handling hazard and require special disposal methods for the filter.
For more information on aerators and GAC filters, you should contact two independent, non- profit organizations: NSF International at (800) 673-8010 and the Water Quality Association at (630) 505-0160.
More Q & A For the most part, borrowed from Kansas State University Radon Program's web site
Where does radon come from?
Radon comes from the natural radioactive decay of radium and uranium found in the soil beneath the house. The amount of radon in the soil depends on soil chemistry, which varies from one house to the next. Radon levels in the soil range from a few hundred to several thousands of pCi/L. The amount of radon that escapes from the soil to enter the house depends on the weather, soil porosity, soil moisture, and the suction within the house.
How does radon get into the house?
Houses act like large chimneys. As the air in the house warms, it rises to leak out the attic openings and around the upper floor windows. This creates a small suction at the lowest level of the house, pulling the radon out of the soil and into the house. You can test this on a cold day by opening a top floor window an inch. You will notice warm air from the house rushing out that opening; yet, if you open a basement window an inch, you will feel the cold outside air rushing in. This suction is what pulls the radon out of the soil and into the house. You might think caulking the cracks and the openings in the basement floor will stop the radon from entering the house. It is unlikely that caulking the accessible cracks and joints will permanently seal the openings radon needs to enter the house. The radon levels will still likely remain unchanged. Fortunately, there are other extremely effective means of keeping radon out of your home. Throughout the country, several million people have already tested for radon. Some houses tested as high as 2,000-3,000 pCi/L; yet, there hasn't been one house that could not mitigate to an acceptable level. Mitigation usually costs between $900-$2500.
What is the general procedure for testing a home for radon?
Two standard methods exist for testing a home for the presence of radon gas. Short-term testing methods are designed to provide a quick radon value. Short-term tests can be as short as 48 hours and as long as 90 days. Long-term testing methods are designed to provide an annual average of radon gas. Long-term tests run for a minimum of 91 days, and usually for 6 to 12 months. The EPA recommends performing a short-term test for radon. If that test comes back below the EPA Action Level (4.0 pCi/L), then no further immediate action is required. (See What does 4.0 pCi/L really mean). However, the home should be tested again after any air sealing work, heating/air conditioning system changes or foundation modifications. If the short-term test returns with a radon value of 4.0-10.0 pCi/L, the EPA recommends performing a long-term test to gauge the home's annual radon concentration. The results of the long-term test should be used to determine the necessity of radon mitigation (reduction). Another option is to conduct a second short term test if quicker results are desired. If the first short-term test returns above 10.0 pCi/L, then the EPA recommends performing a second short-term test to verify the results and using the average of the two short-term tests to determine the necessity of radon mitigation.
Where can I purchase a radon test kit?
Consumers can purchase radon test kits for their homes from a number of outlets. The Ohio Radon Program distributes short-term radon test kits through the Ohio Department of Health. (Contact the ODH Radon Program (1-800-523-4439) for information on where to obtain low cost radon test kits.) Most home improvement and local hardware stores also stock or can order a variety of test kit brands. Additionally, radon test kits can be purchased directly from the manufacturers such as AccuStar (www.accustarlabs.com ) or Air-Chek (www.radon.com) .
Are test kits for measuring radon gas accurate?
Yes. The largest source of error in radon testing does not come from the type of device used, but rather from the failure to maintain appropriate closed house conditions during the period of the test and not following other standard practices. It is important to carefully follow test kit instructions if you want accurate results. The accuracy of almost all commercially available radon measurement devices has been evaluated in the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Radon Measurement Proficiency Program (RMP). This program exposed the devices to established radon levels and returned them to the company or individual for evaluation. A minimum passing requirement was that the result must have been within plus or minus 25% of the established radon levels. Most devices have better performance at the EPA guideline level of 4 picocuries per liter of air. Laboratories and measurement service providers have quality assurance programs and controls to maintain reliable performance and accurate results.
What does 4.0 pCi/L really mean?
Radiation measurements are all named after scientists who have contributed significantly to our knowledge about radioactivity. The “picoCurie per liter of air” (pCi/L) is the measurement we use in the United States to define the amount of radon that is present. It was named after Marie Curie and her husband Pierre. Madame Curie discovered Radium and Polonium.
4.0 pCi/L is what the EPA has defined as their “Action Level” indicating that if that level of radon exists, action should be taken to reduce the level. The action level is not considered to be a health based indicator, rather, it was a number that the EPA determined would be most likely to be achievable across the USA. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that radon levels of 2.7 pCi/L (or 100 Bq/m3 – Becquerels per cubic meter – named for the scientist that first discovered evidence of radioactivity.
While 4.0 pCi/L is the EPA Action Level, the EPA and the Ohio Dept. of Health recommend that consideration be given to fixing homes with more than 2 pCi/L.
How is radon removed from homes?
There are actually 12 or 13 methods used to remove radon from our homes. In some cases we use several of them at the same time. The primary method of radon reduction (or mitigation) involves the installation of an Active Soil Depressurization (ASD) system. An ASD system involves the installation of a venting system that removes radon gas from the soil beneath a house's foundation. The system includes a 3- to 4-inch PVC vent pipe, a continuously running suction fan and a system indicator. The PVC vent pipe is installed through the foundation into a small pit that is dug out by hand through the insertion hole (which often has to be drilled out). The pipe is then routed either up through the house and exited through the attic and the roof or routed to the exterior of the house and up the wall with the terminus above the eave line of the house. If the vent pipe is routed through the house, the suction fan is usually installed in the attic. If the vent pipe is routed up the outside of the house, the fan is mounted near ground level. The system indicator is mounted at some visible location below the suction fan. Most systems use a simple U-tube manometer to indicate that suction is being exerted in the pipe by the suction fan. ASD systems can be adapted for use with all foundation types (basement, slab-on-grade, crawl space, or mixed foundation types) and is the most cost-effective and most efficient means of reducing elevated indoor radon.
What is the risk of radon exposure?
Scientists believe radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer. When radon decays, it shoots off alpha particles. These are small, heavy, electrically charged, sub-atomic particles consisting of two protons and two neutrons. If an alpha particle strikes the chromosomes in a lung cell, it could alter the way that cell reproduces. Our body's immune system should recognize and destroy these mutant cells before they can multiply over the next 10 to 20 years into a recognizable cancerous growth.
Some people's immune systems are better than others. Because of these inherent differences, radon doesn't affect everyone the same.
How serious a risk is radon?
According to the following EPA radon risk chart, radon is a serious health problem.
If 1,000 people were exposed to this level over a lifetime who are:
Radon Level....Smokers........................Never Smokers
20 pCi/L ……....26% or 260 people.......4% or 36 people could get lung cancer
10 pCi/L...........15% or 150 people.......2% or 18 people could get lung cancer
4 pCi/L...............6% or 62 people........ 0.7% or 7 people could get lung cancer
2 pCi/L...............3% or 32 people........ 0.4% or 4 person could get lung cancer
What factors should I look at in deciding whether to mitigate or not?
Cigarette smokers should keep their exposure to radon as low as possible. Smokers have eight times the risk from radon as non-smokers. If the house was tested in an infrequently used basement, it may have measured a radon level that is higher than the actual level you are exposed to, spending most of your time upstairs.
People with young children should be more concerned with the possible consequences of radon exposure 20 years from now than someone in their late sixties or seventies.
Families with a hereditary predisposition of cancer should be more concerned about radon exposure than families who don't have any history of cancer.If you work for a company that might transfer you in the future, your employer probably will hire a relocation company to purchase your home. Today, most relocation companies insist that the house test below 4 pCi/L before they will buy it.
What about radon in well water?
Underground well water can transport the radon from the soil into the house, when taking a shower, doing laundry, or washing dishes. The EPA says it takes about 10,000 pCi/L of radon in water to contribute 1.0 pCi/L of radon in air throughout the house.
What about radon in city water?
If your water comes from a municipal reservoir supply, you need not worry about radon in the water. When radon in water is stored in a reservoir for more than 30 days, the radon decays away to practically nothing. Every 3.825 days half the radon disappears through natural radioactive decay.