The US EPA states that radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that can cause lung cancer. Most radon exposure occurs inside homes and indoor spaces where it is trapped as it enters the building through cracks and other holes in the foundation.
The good news is indoor radon can be controlled and managed with proven and cost-effective techniques
Check out these Radon Testing Guidelines for more information and keep reading below.
Why is Testing for Radon Important?
In the United States, radon exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer with an estimated 26% of cases. Lung cancer is currently the leading cancer in the US. Breathing radon gas over time increases your risk of lung cancer. Radon is inert, naturally occurring, odorless, tasteless, and invisible. It can be present in any type of property, any type of home, and any type of foundation. When radon enters into our homes it can not disperse increasing our exposure risk.
You can take steps to reduce and control the amount of radon in your home. Testing is the only way to determine radon levels.
When Should I Test for Radon?
During a real estate transaction, the radon test should be performed within the attorney review period. This attorney review period usually lasts five business days, so it is very important that you schedule your radon tests as soon as possible. The radon test must run for a minimum of 48 hours, so you will need to be sure that there is enough time to arrange for the test and the report to get to you and any other parties that need it. Be sure that you are hiring a licensed professional for a real estate transaction. In Illinois, you need to hire a professional licensed under the IEMA.
As a homeowner, it is recommended that you test every two years per the EPA testing recommendations. Radon levels can change over time, so a new test is recommended to always manage your exposure level.
You should also test the radon level after a home has been recently mitigated to make sure the mitigation was successful. After that, the EPA recommends following that same two-year testing recommendation, as the levels can change over time the mitigation system can fail as it is built with mechanical parts. Regular testing within that EPA 2 year recommendation will be needed checked for performance of that system.
What is a Good Radon Test?
There is no good reading, rather the reading determines an action level, a reading level at which is recommended to mitigate radon. A high reading is a test that comes in at 4.0 pCi/L and up, this is the EPA action level. The EPA also has a recommendation that mitigation is considered for anything between 2.0 and 3.9 pCi/L.
There is no safe number, and it is not possible to achieve a zero reading. Rather the goal is to reduce our risk of exposure by bringing the reading level as low as possible. This is achieved through mitigation. Every home can be mitigated, and our risk reduced with successful mitigation.
How Much Does a Radon Test Cost?
White Glove starts our pricing for radon testing at $200.00 for tests that are conducted at the same time as a residential inspection. The prices do go up from there and are based on several factors such as square footage and foundation types.
If you are not completing the test for a real estate transaction, there are affordable at-home options for testing that you can consider for the regular two-year testing. However, at-home tests cannot be used for real estate transactions.
Do I Need to Be At the Radon Test?
No - For a real estate transaction, it is not necessary that you be at the radon test at either the setup or pickup. It is common that access is arranged directly with the selling side for access to set up and pick up a radon test where we usually meet the homeowner/occupant or real estate agent onsite.
If you are the homeowner or occupant, we would make arrangements for access to the property as you feel works best for you.
How is a Radon Test Performed?
For the purpose of a real estate transaction a radon testing company is hired to complete the testing. Remember, A licensed radon company is the only acceptable type of test for a real estate transaction. A radon technician will then go to the property and set up the testing equipment in the different foundation areas as specified by the Illinois testing quality assurance. That equipment will then be left at the property for a minimum of 48 hours, at which point a radon technician will return to the property and collect the testing equipment. They will then retrieve their readings and report their findings to the buyer or the interested party that hired them.
There are rules and directions that a radon test must be performed within, they are often referred to as Close House Conditions. To have the best, most reliable test it is very important that the closed house conditions be followed. Failure to do so can result in voided tests or false positive readings. Closed house conditions are very easy to follow in 99% of situations.
Closed House conditions are:
Closed house conditions must start a minimum of 12 hours before the testing equipment is set up.
All external doors and windows must be kept closed.
Doors may be opened only for the time required for normal entering and exiting.
Mechanical Systems that draw air out of the home may adversely affect the measurement results and are not to be operated and their inlet closed. (i.e., range hoods, bathroom fans, clothes dryers, window air conditioners or whole house fans)
Permanently installed HVAC systems shall continue to operate and set at 72 degrees F plus or minus 4 degrees F.
Window fans shall be removed or sealed.
Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves must not be used and their damper must be closed.
Unoccupied homes shall be tested with the HVAC system set and operating throughout the measurement period in the normal range, such as 72 degrees F plus or minus 4 degrees F.
If at any time during the testing period, winds exceed 30 miles per hour, the monitor will require an extended stay within the home.
Homeowners and or the occupants of the property will need to sign an agreement that they follow these closed house agreements as we are required by law to explain the testing requirements and that we have met that obligation.
What is Radon Mitigation, and Do I Need to Do It?
Your radon testing levels are used to determine if mitigation is recommended by the EPA. Once mitigation is completed on the property your exposure is lowered reducing your long-term risk from radon exposure. The goal is to limit our exposure and the lower the reading, the less exposure.
If it is determined that you have high readings the next step is to complete mitigation. A mitigation professional is usually hired to do this work. The IEMA also regulates licensing for mitigation companies and professionals just like testing companies.
Radon mitigation is the process by which you can take steps to reduce the radon concentration levels in a home or building. Usually, radon problems are fixed using an underground ventilation system or by increasing the rate of air changes in the building. Different homes, foundations, and building types will have slightly different needs to accomplish successful mitigation.
A reputable mitigation company should not do its own testing of any system that they install or service. It is best and should be required by the mitigation company, to have a separate qualified radon testing company come out and do what is called a post-mitigation test to determine if the mitigation was successful in reducing the radon levels to a 3.9 pCi/L and below.
White Glove Building Inspections, Inc. is a licensed radon testing company. We do not offer mitigation services. We test for radon before and after mitigation.
For pricing on mitigation, prices do vary and can be as little as $1,500.00. It is best to confirm pricing with reputable mitigation companies.
What Does pCi/L Mean?
The scientific formula of pCi/L stands for picocuries per liter of air. Radon testing is looking for a reading of 4.0 picocuries per liter of air or above.
Picocuries are one trillionth of a Curie. Curies are a unit measurement of radioactive materials. Curies get their name from Madame Marie Curie, who was the pioneering chemist and physicist who conducted research into radioactivity and its use in modern medicine.
Common Myths About Radon
There are common myths about radon that lead to misunderstandings about radon testing.
Radon is Not Harmful - The biggest myth is that radon is not dangerous. As you have probably read and learned from your real estate agent and attorney radon is a health concern that should be addressed and mitigated as much as possible.
Not All Homes Need to be Tested - The most common myth that White Glove encounters is that homes that have old stone foundations, a slab or slab on grade foundation, crawl spaces, etc., do not need to be tested. This is absolutely incorrect! No matter the type of foundation a home has, there is the potential to have elevated radon levels. The concentration of radon gas is determined by what is in the soil our homes are built on. If radon is in the earth around your home, there is the possibility that you have radon gas in your home.
I Do Not Have to Test a Home With a Mitigation System - There is also a common misunderstanding that if a home has been mitigated you do not have to perform another test. The EPA has already set the standard of testing every two years. That testing recommendation stays the same for homes that have mitigation systems either passive, active, or no system in place. You also need to keep a regular testing schedule when you have a mitigation system in place to make sure that it is working optimally. Mitigation systems that are active have moving mechanical parts, over time they can break down and may need to be repaired and or replaced. The other reason to test is that due to the nature of radon gas, the radon levels can fluctuate over time. Sometimes a mitigation system may need to be improved upon to keep up with the concentration of radon gas in the home.
The Manometer is Giving Me an Accurate Radon Reading - One misunderstanding that we regularly run across is that people misunderstand the mitigation equipment, how it works, and think that the equipment is giving a radon reading. What most people are misinterpreting is the manometer and what it is showing. The manometer is usually a 12-inch plastic U filled with colored liquid. This tool is used to measure the pressure that the mitigation system is under and that it is working correctly. It does not show the radon levels. Often the manometer has a marking, (usually, it is a low number between 0-6) telling where the ideal pressure is for the mitigation system to draw the radon gas out. If the liquid is not matching up to the line, the mitigation system is not working correctly. That level of the manometer reading has nothing to do with the radon level. There are options available for long-term continuous monitoring that are available to homeowners that can give you real-time readings. However, these tools do not meet the requirements for a real estate transaction.
The information shared here is relevant to White Glove Building Inspections, Inc., the real estate, and home inspection market in Chicago and the greater Chicagoland area. Be sure to consult with your real estate agent and attorney for additional information and what will work best for your upcoming real estate purchase.