How Much Radon is Unhealthy?

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Having just recently completed National radon testing certification I was repeatedly reminded of the EPA radon action level standard of 4.0 pCi/L. Every home inspector and real estate agent who works in an area where radon is a concern is familiar with this standard. What many do not know is that this standard is not health based. It is a mechanical standard based on mitigation technology.

It has never been definitively established at what level or amount of radon gas produces lung cancer. It is know that the more exposure the greater the risk. So therefore by lowering the level in a home significantly reduces the risk.

The method of reduction or mitigation is done most often by active mechanical means. What was found early on in mitigation technology was the radon level could be lowered below 4.0 pCi/L and many times below 2.0 pCi/L. Thus the EPA standard was established.

Since there is no known "healthy" level of radon gas, it is important to;

  1. Test your home or the home you are purchasing for radon and
  2. Mitigate if the levels are found to be at or above 4.0 pCi/L.

It is always advisable to not rely on previous tests for several reasons. Radon levels are known to change over time and the reliability of previous test can not be assured. Testing done by certified testing services is always the best method for checking radon levels in a home.

The next time you hear the radon standard 4.0 pCi/L, just remember the less the better.

James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

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Rainmaker
304,760
ARDELL DellaLoggia
Better Properties Seattle - Kirkland, WA
I haven't seen or heard about Radon since I moved to the West Coast.  Does it only exist in certain areas?  In PA and NJ it was a normal test done on every sale, but I didn't see it in Florida or CA or WA.
Feb 11, 2008 03:05 AM #1
Ambassador
895,575
Larry Bettag
Cherry Creek Mortgage Illinois Residential Mortgage License LMB #0005759 Cherry Creek Mortgage NMLS #: 3001 - Saint Charles, IL
Vice-President of National Production

My brother is a Hematologist Oncologist.  I"m a real estate attorney.  He said that the EPA levels of 4.0 are ridiculously low and that studies show that you have to be in highly elevated continual exposure to have a slightly increased chance of getting cancer.  The problem is that the government is involved.  We never had Radon tests in Illinois til a little over 10+ years ago, give or take.  So while I really don't worry about those levels, I tell my clients that the general public doesn't know the "deal" with Radon and that they should mitigate, because when they sell their home, the issue will start all over again.  Silly world we live in, but such is life. 

Home inspectors on the other hand are the best insurance that any homebuyer could buy.  Nice post.

Feb 11, 2008 03:06 AM #2
Ambassador
1,334,402
Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector
Hi agree with James that the whole "business" of radon is not "health" based.  For another take on Radon please see Forensic Applications Technologies website.
Feb 11, 2008 04:00 AM #3
Rainer
134,110
Scott Patterson, ACI
Trace Inspections, LLC - Spring Hill, TN
Home Inspector, Middle TN

I think that when you tell folks that Radon is the second largest producer of lung cancer next to smoking, that this tends to get the point across!  If you are a smoker, you are already at a higher risk.   Just not a good thing to inhale 24/7, the radiation in the gas causes the cells in your lungs to mutate and form cancerous nodules or growths.

Yes Ardell, radon is not an issue in all areas.  When I lived in Central Mississippi we simply did not have radon gas.  One of the reasons is that we had about 100' or so of clay silt before you reached bedrock.  The clay acted like a cork and did not allow the radon gas to escape 

Check your area on the EPA site.  http://www.epa.gov/radon/zonemap.html

Feb 11, 2008 07:31 AM #4
Rainmaker
67,466
Derek Bauer's, www.DoorToDreams.com Door to Dreams Home Selling Team
Real Estate One - South Lyon, MI
James - very interesting post!  I have long wondered about this and I had heard that the acceptable level in Canada is much higher then in the US (disclaimer - I have NO clue if that is true or not).  I wonder if anyone is working on any studies to identify what levels do and don't affect health?
Feb 11, 2008 11:40 AM #5
Rainmaker
690,134
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Ardell, Radon is found every where although the concentrations vary greatly. Use the EPA link Scott provided to see the predicted levels in your area.

Larry, There definitely needs to be more study on radon levels and there health effects, but as you said it is an issue in real estate. Your advice is right on.

Charles,Caoimhín again. You have to like his no none sense, question authority attitude. A man after my own heart.

Scott, Thanks for putting up the link. I also tell clients that radon is a known cause of lung cancer. That usually gets their attention.

Derek, You are correct, in Canada it is much higher, about 22 pCi/L. There is a strong possibility that will be lowered soon however.

Feb 11, 2008 12:06 PM #6
Rainmaker
192,518
Atlanta's Home Inspector, David Lelak IHI Home Inspections
IHI Home Inspections 404-788-2581 - Canton, GA
Experience the IHI Difference

Great post, and I did a post where we did the test here at out home and then at my other in laws almost right behind us.  We had low levels around 2 she had over 13 and they both smoked...... Scary 

Most people think if their neighbor is okay so are they. Not the case in this situation.

Feb 11, 2008 01:36 PM #7
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Rainmaker
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James Quarello

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