Finally, winter weather is coming to an end. The temperature is rising, the flowers are beginning to bloom, and the birds are singing once again. Spring has arrived here in the northern hemisphere which, traditionally, means that radon testing season is coming to an end.
But the research titled “Radon exposure is rising steadily within the modern North American residential environment and is increasingly uniform across seasons” published in the Nature’s Scientific Reports indicates that every season may be radon testing season. Their study suggests minimal winter-to-summer radon variations in almost half of the properties tested. The other half of the properties showed higher levels of radon during the summer, or higher levels of radon during winter.
“The long-standing viewpoint that radon levels
are higher during the cold winter months when
people are keeping their houses closed and
turning up the heat is an outdated 20th-century
perspective on radon.”
New research states that radon levels are consistent throughout the entire year. This is believed to be caused by the rise of energy-efficient and environmentally friendly buildings that are extremely airtight and designed to not let any air conditioning out during the summer or heat out during the winter. Home factors studied include:
- ceiling height
- square footage
- number of stories
- lowest level such as basement, crawlspace, slab on grade, bi-level
- building material of lowest level such as dirt, earth, concrete, wood, cinder block
- occupant behavior such as window opening
Surprisingly, there was not an observed significant difference in home radon levels based on the thermostat settings based on time of day or whether the home was occupied.
Increase in radon levels in newer homes
A 31.5% increase in radon levels has been found in homes built since 1992 versus older structures. The issue is that these modern houses are too efficient at limiting the amount of unregulated air coming in or out of the house. New homes in North America are containing greater and greater radon levels.
Air tightness with increased air conditioning during the summer months collectively creates indoor air that is less diluted by outside air during the summer. According to the study, radon levels appear to be consistent throughout the course of the calendar year. The average radon levels during the individual seasons only changed by a difference of 7–25Bq/m3. That is only a 5-23% fluctuation throughout the year. This indicates that seasons have very little impact on radon exposure in modern-day North America.
Radon levels will vary over time
Radon levels fluctuate. If you test in the winter months and have low radon levels, it is important to test again during summer months. Conversely, if you test for radon in the summer and levels are low it is recommended that you test again during the winter months. If neighbors in your area have low radon levels it does not mean your home does as well. Radon levels can vary from home to home and even between apartments in the same building.
Energy efficiency and need for radon testing
At the 2022 Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists conference, Dr. Anne-Marie Nicol, Associate Professor of Professional Practice at Simon Frazier University, and Noah Quastel, Director Law and Policy, Healthy Indoor Environments for the British Columbia Lung Foundation presented gaps in the environmental efficiency programs in Canada. Specifically, grants and energy efficiency outreach programs are not addressing how these programs might increase indoor radon levels. Grants and awareness of “green” homes and environmental protection affects everyone and it should be a focus in our world. However, a consequence could be that radon levels are elevated in energy efficient homes. Therefore, radon testing and mitigation should also be a focus of such programs.
Clearly, radon exposure is not merely a problem during the winter months anymore. With the onset of modern, energy efficient, and sustainable building techniques, radon-related health problems will continue to trend upward if awareness does not continue to grow. As this groundbreaking research has demonstrated, radon is a health risk during every season. The days of a winter radon testing season are over; everyone should be testing for radon as regularly as possible, without prioritizing a certain part of the year over others.
Radonova is the laboratory of choice for numerous government radon surveys, as well as other public, and private sector large-scale measurement contracts around the world. A truly global laboratory, Radonova is active in over 50 countries and has performed millions of measurements.