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Why Should I Test My Home for Radon?

Map of EPA radon zones

I recently attended a conference to expand my knowledge of radon. What I learned was not only informative but also a bit alarming. As we mentioned in previous blogs, radon is a colorless, odorless gas that is the leading cause of lung cancer after smoking. Because there has been such an emphasis on the smoking aspect of lung cancer, radon’s contribution to this has often been overlooked. This is a shame because testing and mitigation systems can greatly reduce your chances of this major disease. Consider these statistics from the EPA’s website.

  • The risk of cancer from radon exposure at 4 picocuries per liter (a common level exceeded in IL) is similar to the risk of dying in a car crash!
  • If 1,000 people who never smoked were exposed to 4 pCi/L of radon, about 7 people could get lung cancer. Among smokers with this level of radon exposure, the number is 62 out of 1,000 people.

So how do you know if you have radon? The key word is “TEST”. Without testing your home for radon, there is no other way that you will know what the levels are in your building. Again, radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless gas. There are no known health effects, like headaches or coughing, to alert you of its presence. Proper testing is the only way to know what the pCi/L levels are in your home. The EPA action level for radon is 4.0 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), but the EPA suggests that mitigation should be performed if radon levels are from 2.0 to 4.0 pCi/L.

During my radon conference, a speaker made known his concern that his clients will typically have a single test when they purchase a property and then never test the home for radon again. Radon testing provides a snapshot in time for a short period (usually 48 hours). Even if you had your home tested a number of years ago, it is an excellent idea to retest every five years. If you have a mitigation system installed, doing a retest every two years is recommended. Radon levels are typically highest during the winter, but it can be a good idea to test the home for radon in varying seasons to get a good grasp of what levels are at various times of the year. Remodeling a home, installing new windows or replacing a roof can also affect your numbers.

Radon testing is not just about protecting your family’s health, it can also impact your property’s value. Keep in mind that if you are going to sell the property at any time in the future, chances are great that a buyer is going request a radon test. It doesn’t matter if your house is new or old, high end or low end, or even if it has a basement. Radon can be found anywhere in the country (as seen in the map below), and the only way to know for certain is to test. A letter showing that the property has been tested can put a buyer at ease.

Testing can save you and your family from the risk of lung cancer! If it will be tested anyway when you sell your home in the future, why not benefit now from a healthy home.

Ian Cull

Ian Cull is a nationally recognized expert in the field of indoor air quality. He is the Chief Science Officer of Indoor Science, a company he started in 2004. He speaks around the world on air quality topics and is a training provider of the Indoor Air Quality Association. Mr. Cull is a Licensed Professional Engineer (PE) and Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH). His degree is in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois - Urbana Champaign. Mr. Cull has developed 50 air quality related courses for the IAQA University and is the author of the book, “Fundamentals of Mold Remediation”. In his words… “Besides being passionate about indoor air quality, I enjoy cycling, music, the Chicago Bulls, and having fun with my three kids.”

One thought on “Why Should I Test My Home for Radon?

    Thanks for pointing out that even if you had your home tested for radon a number of years ago, it is an excellent idea to retest every five years. My husband and I are thinking about having our home tested for radon again because we had it done when we first moved in but our neighbors down the street have been having a problem with it recently. I think it would be smart to test again and make sure so that if there are high radon levels in our house we can get mitigation done before it gets too bad.