What is a Radon Level?
Radon is an invisible, radioactive gas that mixes with the air to affect the overall indoor air quality. Because long-term exposure to radon can have potentially harmful side-effects, radon test kits are used to determine the concentration levels of radon in indoor, breathable air. The air we breathe is mostly nitrogen and oxygen, but these tests are sensitive enough to capture tiny particles of the radon gas. Exposure to the air for a specific amount of time allows the test to capture just enough particles to get an accurate reading of the overall gas levels. Circulating air too rapidly around or over the test will cause false readings. Manufacturers recommend keeping the tests away from doors and windows. The air coming in through a window could dilute the radon gas level to create a false low reading or influence it in the other direction. For an accurate reading of the gases in your home's air supply, proper placement is essential.
What is Considered a High Radon Level?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that measurements of 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or higher are considered dangerous levels. This radon level is largely unsafe and is 10 times higher² than the average outdoor air levels. Radon exposure raises a person's likelihood of developing cancer, but levels above 4 pCi/L are particularly likely to lead to lung cancer. The WHO, World Health Organization, actually recommends that anyone with a measurement of 2 pCi/L should take action to lower the radon levels in the home, even if they're not an immediate threat to health. Because of this high risk, it is best to attempt to reach the lowest levels possible. Lowest levels are achieved through mitigation systems, either active or passive, that work to move fresh air in and remove radon by pushing it out.
What is Considered a Safe Radon Level?
There is technically no safe radon level for constant exposure. Radon is potentially dangerous in even the smallest amounts. It is best to aim for as close to zero radon gas in the home as possible. For this reason, the EPA has created recommendations based on this level of exposure over the years. The EPA officially states that homes with measurements of 4 pCi/L or above should be immediately mitigated to remedy the issue. However, this doesn't mean that a home that has 3 pCi/L of radon is automatically safe to live in. The WHO specifically states that "there is no known threshold below which radon exposure carries no risk." All radon exposure increases your risk for cancer, so truly the only safe radon level is zero. Regular testing to accurately capture how the radon levels change in your home on a seasonal basis is the best way to understand your own risk.
Why Radon is Dangerous
Much like carbon monoxide, radon gas poses a hazard without any signs like odor or color. Only regular testing will keep you informed on your home’s air quality and the risks facing your family. Radon gas is surprisingly common and daily exposure to high levels can result in a higher risk for lung cancer according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).¹
Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that naturally results from the radioactive decay of uranium in rocks, soil and sometimes water. As the gas rises, it can easily become trapped inside a structure like a home or an office building. Routine testing is the only way to know if you are at risk for radon exposure at home. The EPA reports that radon exposure is the second most common cause of lung cancer,¹ following only smoking as a greater risk. If you smoke cigarettes and live in a home with high radon levels, you face a combined threat that may further increase your risk of cancer.
Radon is particularly dangerous because it comes from a natural source and can vary in levels over the course of a year as the seasons and weather conditions change. Your home might test at a 1 pCi/liter measurement one month and then return a much higher reading during a different part of the year. Performing both short term and long term radon tests is the best way to get the full picture of your exposure levels. Living in a home with just 4 pCi/liter of radon increases your risk of cancer by the average risk of dying in a car crash, according to the EPA. Affordable mitigation equipment and regular testing are all you need to stay safe in a home known to contain radon.
Safe Levels of Radon & Acceptable Levels of Radon
The EPA estimates that 1 in every 15 homes in the US contains elevated radon levels.⁶ Depending on your state’s laws, you may be required to complete a radon test during a real estate transaction.
There is no question about it, everyone wants the safest possible air in their own home and workplace. One accurate method to be sure your levels are low and staying low over a long period of time is to follow up with a long term test to check radon levels for fluctuations.
How Radon is Measured
You likely don’t need a professional or a mitigation team just to test your home for radon. This is a simple process any homeowner can handle on their own. Radon levels are easily measured with at-home tests you set up in certain areas and send away for lab analysis. The tests fall into two main categories of short-term and long-term products.
Short-term screenings or short-term tests are usually all that’s required for real estate transactions and construction permit requirements. The screening or test will need to measure the gases for at least 48 hours to generate accurate test results for these purposes. For ongoing occupation of the home, try a sequential combination of both short-term and long-term tests. Set up short term screenings or tests a few weeks apart while running a long-term test in the background for a few months. This way, you’ll get a complete survey of the home’s radon levels over the various seasons.
Make sure you choose an accurate home radon test. Look for NRPP approval and the use of materials like charcoal and alpha track measurement devices. Choose tests with clear instructions on where to place the kit and how to prevent false readings from drafts or open windows. The test kits should include everything you need to complete the test and generate accurate results. Radonova radon tests meet all of these requirements and more. Here is a sample of the instructions included for one of our easy to use devices, our Rapidos Short-Term Test Kit.
Frequently Asked Questions About Radon Levels
These common questions and answers may help clear up any misconceptions about radon and its risks to your health. Understanding how to test for radon gas may reassure you about purchasing a house that had a high test result during a sale.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a home with elevated radon levels is unsafe to purchase. You should see if it is possible to install a mitigation system before closing if the short-term screenings or tests are returning higher than recommended levels of radon. Homes that already feature modern mitigation systems aren’t any more expensive to maintain or risky to purchase than other homes in the same neighborhood. Some homes may even have mitigation systems ‘roughed in’ and only require the simple installation of a fan. Buying a home that needs mitigation equipment is similar to purchasing any other house needing a little work.
There is no guarantee that your radon levels will not change in the future. The EPA recommends testing your home every two years⁴ regardless of previous negative test results. Even if you have a mitigation system installed, testing should be done regularly to guarantee the functionality of the mitigation system. Establishing a routine for testing tells you a lot more about how radon rises and falls throughout the year in your home.
The testing stage is fine to handle on your own with high-quality radon test kits. However, it is not recommended to handle mitigation equipment installation on your own. Some states have radon programs that certify contractors for this type of work. Whether or not your state has a certification program, there are two national accreditations that certify mitigation contractors:
- National Radon Proficiency Program (NRPP)
- National Radon Safety Board (NRSB)
Radon mitigation specialists will guide you through the process of obtaining highly accurate test results and pinpointing the primary source of entrance. Sealing cracks in the foundation, closing up gaps around windows and doors, and putting in positive air displacement systems can all reduce radon levels.
Granite, like any natural stone used to build homes or decorate, contains many of the minerals that release radon gas from the soil. The sparkling crystals embedded in your countertops may include thorium and uranium, two minerals that release radioactive radon gas as they break down over time. The EPA says that granite countertops can release extremely small amounts of radon each year, but do not pose a serious or particular risk.⁵ There is no need to remove your granite countertops just to reduce your radon levels.
Routine testing is the only way to ensure any mitigation equipment is working properly. Long-term test kits are used in other parts of the home to track the results of the system. If you get an unusual test result or notice the system isn’t running for long periods of time, you should have it inspected. Annual maintenance from a professional radon mitigation specialist is also important to keep your equipment running smoothly and adjusted to the latest readings from your tests.
Check out your state and county regulations regarding radon testing and your responsibilities as a home seller. In general, short-term screenings are used for real estate radon requirements. If you have previously tested high, you may want to install a mitigation system to make your home safer and more attractive to buyers. Some states and counties require this from sellers who are aware there is radon gas present. Other areas simply require disclosure of the test results to all potential buyers so they’re aware of the risk. Talk to a real estate agent or the local deed office to find out what’s required for the sale.
There is no part of the U.S. completely free of the risk of radon gas exposure. Yet there are some states and regions that experience higher rates of exposure than others. Iowa, Utah, and North Dakota in particular are known for developing higher than average rates of radon gas exposure in the home. Do not rely on radon maps published by anyone other than the EPA. Even the EPA's maps of county-level reports will only tell you the general risk for your area. This is no replacement for regular testing with home kits. Radon levels vary from home to home on the same street due to soil variations, building styles, and structural conditions. No matter where you live, you should invest in regular testing to check the actual conditions inside your home.
Every radon test kit comes with complete instructions making it easy to measure indoor radon levels. Multiple test kits placed in different areas of the home will provide better insight into the overall radon level. You can place multiple test units in different parts of the home for more accurate measurements of the total radon exposure level. Once the test period has ended, you simply pack it up in the included mailer and send it off to be analyzed. Home test kits are simple for you to use on your own.
Radon testing should become part of your home maintenance routine just like checking the foundation for cracks and cleaning the gutters. Perform a test at least once every two years to stay on top of developing conditions. Ever-changing soil conditions and the settling of your home are just a few factors that can affect your radon levels. Only regular testing can keep you informed of the radon concentration in your home. Keep your home and workplace safe; treat radon detection with the same attention you would a carbon monoxide detector or fire alarm
Radonova makes it easy to measure your home’s radon levels at any time. You can set up the tests on your own and then send off the results for accurate analysis. Shop our selection of radon tests today to find the right option for your needs. Whether you're testing to meet real estate requirements, first-time inquiry, or conducting routine maintenance, our QuickScreen, Rapidos or Radtrak³ products come with everything you need to get an accurate result. Choose Radonova for radon testing you can trust.
Short Term Radon Test Kit
10-90 Radon Test Kit
The Rapidos is a short-term radon test that will monitor between 10 to 90 days. This extremely accurate test will take into account all of the daily fluctuations in radon and provide an average concentration.
Long Term Radon Test Kit
90-365 Radon Test Kit
The Radtrak³ is a long-term test that will monitor between 90 days and 1 full year. This extremely accurate test will take into account all of the daily fluctuations in radon levels.