Radon Information

rochester_new_york_and_monroe_county_new_york_and_ontario_county_new_york_radon_testing.pngUranium 238 is a common radioactive element that was distributed widely as the earth’s crust formed. It naturally occurs in most types of granites and soils in varying degrees. As it undergoes radioactive decay, it forms various new elements and by-products which emit various types of radiation. Radon 222 is one element formed in the Uranium 238 decay process. Radon 222 is a gas which emits alpha particles at a high rate as it decays. These alpha particles are carcinogenic and pose great hazards to lung tissue when inhaled.

 

 

Build-up of radon gas in homes is a health concern and many lung cancer cases are attributed to radon exposure each year. It is estimated that approximately 12% of lung cancers are radon-related, and approximately 21,000 Americans die of radon-related lung cancer each year.

The distant second leading cause of death in America is drunk driving at approximately 17,000 deaths per year – you can protect yourself against radon – you cannot protect yourself against drunk drivers.

Further compare these statistics to home fires which claim approximately 2,800 lives per year and carbon monoxide poisoning which claims approximately 235 lives per year. If you are concerned enough about your safety to have smoke alarms and CO alarms installed in your home Рyou really should be concerned enough about the radon risk to have your home tested. 

You cannot see, smell, or taste radon. But it still may be a problem in your home.  When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer.  In fact, the Surgeon General of the United States has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today.  If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.

Your family could be put at risk by this easy to detect and easy to mitigate hazard. Radon causes tens of thousands of preventable deaths every year.

Testing is the only way to find out your home’s radon levels. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to fix a radon problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels. Radon has been found in homes all over the United States. Radon typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Radon can also enter your home through well water.¬† Your home can trap radon inside.

Any home can have a radon problem. This means new and old homes, well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. In fact, you and your family are most likely to get your greatest radiation exposure at home. That is where you spend most of your time. Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have an elevated radon level.

Estimated % of homes with elevated radon levels in home living areas in surrounding area:

Monroe County:           2%

Wayne County:            8%

Ontario County:         10%

Livingston County:     16%

If your home has not yet been tested for Radon have a test taken as soon as possible. If you can, test your home before putting it on the market.  You should test in the lowest level of the home which is suitable for occupancy. This means testing in the lowest level that you currently live in or a lower level not currently used, but which a buyer could use for living space without renovations.

Does the home have a finished family room, playroom, or bedroom in the basement? Basement radon concentrations average between 2 to 3 times higher than first-floor concentrations.

Estimated % of homes with elevated radon levels in basements in surrounding area: 

Monroe County:          14%    

Wayne County:            30%

Ontario County:           34%

Livingston County:      44%

Visit the official New York State Radon Site to view radon level maps and statistics: http://www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/radiological/radon/maps_statistics.htm 

The radon test result is important information about your home’s radon level.¬† Some states require radon measurement testers to follow a specific testing protocol.¬† If you do the test yourself, you should carefully follow the testing protocol for your area or EPA’s Radon Testing Checklist.¬† If you hire a contractor to test your residence, protect yourself by hiring a qualified individual or company.

If you are thinking of selling your home and you have already tested your home for radon,  review the Radon Testing Checklist to make sure that the test was done correctly.  If so, provide your test results to the buyer.

No matter what kind of test you took, a potential buyer may ask for a new test if:

  • The Radon Testing Checklist items were not met;
  • The last test is not recent, e.g., within two years;
  • The last test was completed in warmer months – radon levels can be twice as high during colder months;
  • You have renovated or altered your home since you tested; or
  • The buyer plans to live in a lower level of the house than was tested, such as a basement suitable for occupancy but not currently lived in.

(Subtle interactions exist between all components in your home Рsimply installing new windows, modifying your attic ventilation, or updating a furnace or water heater to a direct vent appliance can elevate radon levels above the threshold at which mitigation is recommended) 

Radon Myths and Facts

MYTH: 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 (like the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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: There are safe levels of radon.

FACT: The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that there is no threshold level at which radon is safe. Most individuals assume that because the EPA has established a threshold level* above which action (mitigation) is advised, that levels below this action level are safe. The fact is that exposures to low-to mid-levels of radon gas is the second leading cause of lung cancer. Mitigation systems can reduced radon levels in most homes to minimal levels and minimize the exposure risks associated with this environmental hazard.

*The EPA threshold level is currently 4 pCi/l

MYTH: Radon testing is difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

FACT: Radon testing is easy and inexpensive. 

MYTH: Radon testing devices are not reliable and are difficult to find.

FACT: Reliable testing devices are available from qualified radon testers and companies. 

MYTH: Homes with radon problems can’t be fixed.

FACT: There are simple solutions to radon problems in homes. Hundreds of thousands of homeowners have already fixed radon problems in their homes. Radon levels can be readily lowered for $800 to $2,500 (with an average cost of $1,200)..

MYTH: Radon affects only certain kinds of homes.

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, and homes without basements.  Local geology, construction materials, and how the home was built are among the factors that can affect radon levels in homes.

MYTH: Passive radon mitigation system components will lower the radon levels in a home.

FACT: Passive radon mitigation system components are often installed in new homes that are built in areas that have been discovered to have high levels of radon. The builder installs these during construction because it is simple and inexpensive to do so at this time. If the new home is then found to have elevated radon levels (through testing), these passive components can easily and inexpensively be converted into an active radon mitigation system. The fact is, that passive system components can potentially increase the radon levels in your home. This is why it is important that you have your home tested if your home has passive radon mitigation system components.

MYTH: 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 your radon level is to test.

MYTH: A neighbor’s test result is a good indication of whether your home has a problem.

FACT: It’s not. Radon levels can vary greatly from home to home (even unit to unit in a row of attached townhouses). The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.

MYTH: It’s difficult to sell homes where radon problems have been discovered.

FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked or frustrated. The added protection is some times a good selling point.

MYTH: I’ve 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’ve lived with a radon problem for a long time.

MYTH: Short-term tests can’t be used for making a decision about whether to fix your home.

FACT: A short-term test, followed by a second short-term test can be used to decide whether to fix your home. However, the closer the average of your two short-term tests is to 4 pCi/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 constantly fluctuate, and can be twice as high during colder months.

 

Advanced Home Awareness Home Inspections provides home inspection and radon testing services throughout the Greater Rochester New York Region – Including Monroe, Ontario, Wayne, and Livingston Counties, and the Northern Finger Lakes Area.

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Home Inspection Rochester New York

Telephone: 585-245-1190
Fax: 585-359-4802
Email: ahahomeinspections@rochester.rr.com