Should I Worry About Radon?

Based on the amount of a requests I receive for Radon Testing , homeowners and home buyers are becoming more concerned about Radon gas. I think it’s important for homeowners and buyers on radon and radon testing.  I’ve included a list of links at the bottom of this article.  Please reach out ot me if you have questions.

What is Radon?

Radon is a colorless and odorless radioactive gas that is produced by the radioactive decay of radium. Radium is a product of a decay chain beginning with uranium, a naturally occurring radioactive element. Radium is found in trace amounts in nearly all rocks,soils,and groundwater as well as building materials, plants,animals,and the human body.

Where is Radon Found?

Radon is a natural component of the air we breathe. Radon gas decays to solid particles called radon decay products. Inhaled radon decay products account for more than two thirds of the natural background radiation dose to members of the public. Scientists have long known about the radiation dose from radon, particularly to miners; however, the general public in the United States became aware of the potential risk of radon in homes in the 1980s.

The map below shows the concentration of mapped Radon zones. Notice Colorado notice we in Colorado are in the Highest  Zone 1.   Colorado Springs and Elpaso County have a very high incidence of Radon Gas.

EPA Map of Radon Zones.

Is Radon Harmful to Your Health?

According to the EPA, radon is the second most important cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. Radon exposure is also considered the  primary cause of lung cancer in individuals who have never smoked. The majority of radon related lung cancers are attributable  to long-term exposures at low or moderate concentrations since most of the exposures occur at these lower concentrations. Adverse health  effects, other than lung cancer, have not been consistently demonstrated in epidemiological studies.

EPA chart (vertical number of Deaths - Horizontal Causes of Death)

 

How is Radon Measured?

Radon concentration is a measurable quantity that is related to the amount of radiation that would be emitted by radon and its decay products  in a liter of air.  Radon concentration in air is expressed in units of picocuries per liter (pCi/L).Higher radon concentrations and smoking habits are related to a higher potential for adverse human health effects. The concentration to which an individual is exposed can be influenced by that person’s lifestyle,such as time spent indoors, building construction,local geology, and other environmental factors.

What Level of Radon is Acceptable?

The U.S. EPA has established guidelines for exposure to radon in homes. At levels of 4pCi/L or more, the U.S. EPA encourages members of the public to take steps to reduce the radon concentrations and to consider action at levels above 2pCi/L. The Health Physics Society concurs with the U.S. EPA guideline of 4pCi/L. However, because 4pCi/L is not a definite line between safe and unsafe, the HPS also agrees with the EPA s recommendation to consider action at levels below 4pCiL. Recent residential epidemiological studies have demonstrated that there is a statistically significant increased risk of lung cancer at concentrations below the U.S. EPA s action level of 4pCi/L.

Radon Testing Guidelines

You should have your home or building tested by a Certified Radon Measurement Professional.   Closed house conditions are required 12 hours prior to deployment of the tests and for the 48 hours during the test.  Closed-house conditions means keeping all windows closed, keeping doors closed except for normal entry and exit, and not operating fans or other machines which bring in air from outside.  Fans that are part of a radon-reduction system or small exhaust fans operating for only short periods of time may run during the test.

How Long does Radon Testing Take?

Many different types of Radon Measurement Devices are available.  Short term tests require a minimum deployment tome of 48 hours to 7 days.  For the Radon tests I conduct I use either a Charcoal Liquid Scintillation which is two small vials of activated charcoal  or Activated Charcoal Adsorption container filled with activated charcoal and covered with a screen and filter.   Both of these types are deployed for 48 hours.  Long  term can be a Continuous Monitoring which could be in place for a year.

What if my Radon Levels are High?

For existing homes with radon concentrations at or above 4pCi/L, proper radon mitigation can almost always reduce levels to below 2pCi/L. Homeowners, or others responsible for a particular building, should contact a qualified radon mitigation specialist to determine the appropriate actions to be taken to reduce indoor radon concentrations. Confirmation tests should be made after mitigation to ensure that the system is working properly.

What if I Plan to Build a New Home?

For new construction, particularly in areas designated by the U.S. EPA or state radon programs as  having the potential for indoor radon concentrations exceeding 4 pCi/L, radon‐reducing features or a full mitigation system should be installed at the time of construction. Nationwide, the average cost of installing radon resistant systems in new construction is in the range of several hundred dollars, while the cost of mitigating an existing home often exceed $1,000.

Radon and Home Sales?

Radon testing is standard for many real estate transactions along the front range.   Because real estate sales happen quickly, there is often little time to mitigate for radon and this becomes a price negotiation item regardless of whether the buyer is actually concerned with radon or not. The best thing to do is to test for radon NOW and save the results in case the buyer is interested in them.  If there is a radon issue, I can recommend a mitigation company to resolve your issue and get on with the purchase or sale of your home.

 

Radon References:

EPA on Radon

El Paso County Colorado Radon Services

InterNACHI Radon Information

Or Contact me for your Radon Testing or other Home Inspection Needs

Inspections Done Right

Home Safety

From the perspective of 28 years in construction management (superintendent),  job site safety  was always foremost on my mind.  When an accident occurs on a job site it can be very costly in many ways.  First to the injured party who must suffer through the healing process, it also cost the project time due to possible re-staffing, time taken in investigating the accident and the insurance rates sometimes will go up.  In my Home Inspections I am not looking for things like household chemicals or plants, I concentrate on electrical issues or fall type hazards.  Just as a project superintendent would have a safety plan, so home owners should also have a plan in case of accidents of any kind.  Remember the faster you can respond to an accident the better for the victim (your loved one).

Buying a home is the first step, you have most likely had it inspected for structural and electrical problems hopefully by a Certified Inspector.  Don’t stop there, as you move into your new home keep in mind the safety of your family.  If you have small children consider cabinet latches and keep the poisonous plants out of reach. 

As I was considering  my own home safety, I was astonished at the number household items considered to be poisonous either by ingestion or inhalation.  Items we use sometimes daily but don’t stop to read the labels.  Safety does not stop with household chemicals, it also includes electrical, trip hazards and even house plants.  To my surprise I found the following list of indoor plants to be poisonous.

***English Ivy, Aloe Vera, (Burn plant), Poinsettia, Hydrangea, Jerusalem Cherry,
 Amaryllis, Azalea, Flamingo lily, Angels' wings, Chrysanthemums, Mums,
Kaffir Lily, Croton, Cyclamen, Angel's Trumpet, Dumb cane, Crown-of-thorns, 
Devil's Backbone,Ceriman, Swiss-cheese plant, Heart leaf philodendron, Philodendron***    The following link has more information on the individual plants and what parts are poisonous.     http://www.blankees.com/house/plants/poisonous.htm

Mums

Items in the kitchen considered poisonous: glass cleaner, antibacterial cleaner, dishwashing detergent, all-purpose cleaner, insect sprays, oven cleaner, and ant or roach baits.

Items in the bathroom considered poisonous: medicines, toilet cleaners, antibacterial cleaners, air fresheners, drain cleaners, mold and mildew remover.

Items in the garage considered poisonous: motor oil, windshield washer fluid, gasoline, paints, auto batteries, antifreeze, pesticides.

For a poison emergency in the U.S. call 1-800-222-1222
To Learn More About Chemicals Around Your House:
http://www.epa.gov/kidshometour/kitchen.htm#view
 

Tips on Poisoning
Don’t force to vomit immediately. Call poison control. Tell them what substance and how much was swallowed.
Take the bottle or package to the phone when you call. Directions on the container may not be up to date. Always follow the instructions given by the poison control center. Do not give the patient fluids or cause to vomit if unconscious or in convulsions. Call for emergency help.

Tips for MINOR BURNS
 Immediately cool the burn area by putting it under cool running water or in a sink filled with cool water for at least five minutes or until the pain subsides. Never apply butter, grease or ointment. Don’t open blisters or remove dead skin. Cover with gauze. If blisters break, apply a clean dressing. If the burn is on the face, covers an area bigger than your hand or if it blisters, call the doctor or emergency number.

Tips for Cuts
MINOR – Wash wound area with soap and water, not alcohol; cover with a sterile gauze bandage.
MAJOR – If blood appears to be gushing or spurting, follow these instructions and call for help. Take a clean
cloth or towel and press hard on the cut for 10 minutes. Do not remove pressure to see if it’s working. If possible, raise the cut above the level of the chest. After 10 minutes, if the bleeding has stopped, cover the cut with a bandage. If the bleeding hasn’t stopped, try pressing harder for five more minutes and seek medical help.

 

Make sure you have the following posted near your phone in case of an emergency.

 

 

    Inspections Done Right