Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer. The Surgeon General and EPA recommend testing for radon and reducing radon in homes that have high levels. Fix your home if your radon level is confirmed to be 4 picocuries per liter, pCi/L, or higher. Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases may be reduced. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
Select A State Certified and/or Qualified Radon Mitigation Contractor
Choose a qualified radon mitigation contractor to fix your home. Start by checking with your state radon office. Many states require radon professionals to be licensed, certified, or registered. You can also contact private radon proficiency programs for lists of privately certified radon professionals in your area. See www.epa.gov/radon/whereyoulive.html (click on your state for contacts and resources).
Radon Reduction Techniques Work
Radon reduction systems work. Some radon reduction systems can reduce radon levels in your home by up to 99 percent. The cost of fixing a home generally ranges from $800 to $2,500, with an average cost of $1,200. Your costs may vary depending on the size and design of your home and which radon reduction methods are needed. Hundreds of thousands of people have reduced radon levels in their homes.
Most often, the radon in your home’s indoor air can come from two sources, the soil or your water supply. Compared to radon entering your home through water, radon entering your home through soil is usually a much larger risk. If you are concerned about radon and you have a private well, consider testing for radon in both air and water. By testing for radon in both air and water, the results could enable you to more completely assess the radon mitigation options best suited to your situation. The devices and procedures for testing your home’s water supply are different from those used for measuring radon in air.
The radon in your water supply poses an inhalation risk and a small ingestion risk. Most of your risk from radon in water comes from radon released into the air when water is used for showering and other household purposes. Research has shown that your risk of lung cancer from breathing radon in air is much larger than your risk of stomach cancer from swallowing water with radon in it.
Radon in your home’s water is not usually a problem when its source is surface water. A radon in water problem is more likely when its source is ground water, such as a private well or a public water supply system that uses ground water. Some public water systems treat their water to reduce radon levels before it is delivered to your home. If you are concerned that radon may be entering your home through the water and your water comes from a public water supply, contact your water supplier.
If you’ve tested your private well and have a radon in water problem, it can be easily fixed. Your home’s water supply can be treated in one of two ways. Point-of-entry treatment for the whole home can effectively remove radon from the water before it enters your home’s water distribution system. Point-of-entry treatment usually employs either granular activated carbon, or GAC, filters or aeration systems. While GAC filters usually cost less than aeration systems, filters can collect radioactivity and may require a special method of disposal. Both GAC filters and aeration systems have advantages and disadvantages that should be discussed with your state radon office or a water treatment professional. Point-of-use treatment devices remove radon from your water at the tap, but only treat a small portion of the water you use, such as the water you drink. Point-of-use devices are not effective in reducing the risk from breathing radon released into the air from all water used in the home.
Radon Reduction Techniques
There are several methods a contractor can use to lower radon levels in your home. Some techniques prevent radon from entering your home while others reduce radon levels after it has entered. EPA generally recommends methods which prevent the entry of radon. Soil suction, for example, prevents radon from entering your home by drawing the radon from below the home and venting it through a pipe, or pipes, to the air above the home where it is quickly diluted.
Any information that you may have about the construction of your home could help your contractor choose the best system. Your contractor will perform a visual inspection of your home and design a system that considers specific features of your home. If this inspection fails to provide enough information, the contractor will need to perform diagnostic tests during the initial phase of the installation to help develop the best radon reduction system for your home. For instance, your contractor can use chemical smoke to find the source and direction of air movement. A contractor can learn air flow sources and directions by watching a small amount of smoke that he or she shot into holes, drains, sumps, or along cracks. The sources of air flow show possible radon routes. A contractor may have concerns about backdrafting of combustion appliances when considering radon mitigation options, and may recommend that the homeowner have the appliances checked by a qualified inspector.
Another type of diagnostic test is a soil communication test. This test uses a vacuum cleaner and chemical smoke to determine how easily air can move from one point to another under the foundation. By inserting a vacuum cleaner hose in one small hole and using chemical smoke in a second small hole, a contractor can see if the smoke is pulled down into the second hole by the force of the vacuum cleaner’s suction. Watching the smoke during a soil communication test helps a contractor decide if certain radon reduction systems would work well in your home.
Whether diagnostic tests are needed is decided by details specific to your home, such as the foundation design, what kind of material is under your home, and by the contractor’s experience with similar homes and similar radon test results.
In selecting a radon reduction method for your home, you and your contractor should consider several things, including: how high your initial radon level is, the costs of installation and system operation, your home size, and your foundation type.
Installation and Operating Costs
The cost of a contractor fixing a home generally ranges from $800 to $2,500, depending on the characteristics of the home and choice of radon reduction methods. The average cost of a radon reduction system is about $1,200.
Most types of radon reduction systems cause some loss of heated or air conditioned air, which could increase your utility bills. How much your utility bills will increase will depend on the climate you live in, what kind of reduction system you select, and how your home is built. Systems that use fans are more effective in reducing radon levels; however, they will slightly increase your electric bill. The “Installation and Operating Cost Table” lists the installation and average operating costs for different radon reduction systems and describes the best use of each method.
Home Foundation Types
Your home type will affect the kind of radon reduction system that will work best. Homes are generally categorized according to their foundation design. For example: basement, slab-on-grade, concrete poured at ground level; or crawlspace, a shallow unfinished space under the first floor. Some homes have more than one foundation design feature. For instance, it is common to have a basement under part of the home and to have a slab-on-grade or crawlspace under the rest of the home. In these situations a combination of radon reduction techniques may be needed to reduce radon levels to below 4 pCi/L.
- If you are buying a home or selling your home, have it tested for radon.
- For a new home, ask if radon-resistant construction features were used and if the home has been tested.
- Fix the home if the radon level is 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) or higher.
- Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk, and in many cases, may be reduced.
- Take steps to prevent device interference when conducting a radon test.
|* Radon is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year, according to EPA’s 2003 Assessment of Risks from Radon in Homes (EPA 402-R-03-003). The numbers of deaths from other causes are taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2005-2006 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control Report and 2006 National Safety Council Reports.