There Are Many Types of Radon Testing, Which is Best For You?

(Note: The U.S. Surgeon General recommends radon testing for all homes in the United States. If you don't understand this need to test, please see: (text link to "Cancer and Radon"- install text link with no alignment)

TESTING FOR RADON... there are a lot of options to consider; when and why to test; professional service or self test kit; timing, long term or short term; accuracy and tamper resistant concerns; the potential for false positives; convenience and cost; plus much more. On this page we will briefly cover the options and considerations for radon testing. Within the page are text links that will take you to more in-depth discussions on the topics.

So Lets Consider... Since radon is a cancer-causing, radioactive gas, it is important that all homes are tested and re-tested; and that the tests are done properly. I think a lot of people don't understand how much the amount of radon in a home can fluctuate in a given day or year, due to changes like weather or home usage. A house that has a low level of radon one year can have a high level a year or two later, especially if energy improvements have been made. For more information see: (XXX Radon level fluctuations) (XXX False positives)

Conflict of interest has been known to cause some people to cheat on radon tests, I believe this happens more than most would realize. Also you should not assume, that if a house has an operating radon mitigation system, that it is at an acceptable level (below 4.0 pCi/L), often they are not. Likewise if your neighbors house tested low it is no indication that yours will too. The only way to know for sure if your house has high radon is to conduct a radon test.

General Testing Information It is helpful to understand the basic properties of radon and how it enters a house when testing for it. Some key points are listed below. To learn more about radon see: (xxxk "Facts About Radon Gas") (XXX How radon enters a home). If your house has tested high for radon and you have well water, there's a good chance the well water has high radon also and should be tested. For more information see (XXX radon in well water), (XXX testing water for radon) (xxx removing radon from drinking water)

Radon Testing Key Points

  • The vast majority of radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that rises out of the ground.
  • It is found all over the United States and can enter all types of buildings.
  • All types of homes, apartments and work places (except those raised on stilts or pilings) can have radon concerns.
  • The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon. The EPA also recommends testing in schools.
  • The concern is when radon gas accumulates in a home or building.
  • pico-Curie/Liter (abbreviated: pCi/L) is the measure of radioactivity typically used in the United States for radon gas.
  • The average U.S. concentration of radon in the atmosphere is 0.4 pCi/L, (this is the ideal goal for indoors).
  • The EPA strongly recommends taking action to reduce the level of radon in homes if it is 4.0 pCi/L or higher.
  • The EPA also suggests that you may want to reduce radon if it is at 2.0 pCi/L or higher.
  • There is no safe level of radon. For real estate sales, 3.9 pCi/L is the threshold level set by the EPA as reasonably acceptable (not safe).
  • Some radon gas that enters a home can leave through windows and other openings. Testing (short term) is performed during a closed building condition, (you can come and go but keep windows and doors closed).
  • Radon is a single atom and can enter the smallest cracks, even through the pores of concrete.
  • Changes in both soil pressure and negative pressures exhibited inside a home, will change the rate of radon entry from hour to hour, day by day, and season to season.

Two General Types of Radon Testing are long term and short term. They are differentiated by the length of time it takes to conduct the test. A short term radon test will remain in your home from 2 to 90 days. A long term radon test remains in your home for over 90 days, up to a year or more. There are different types of devices and kits used to perform both types of tests. Both long and short term tests can be done by hiring a radon testing professional or using "do it your self" test kits or monitors.

To find out what your radon level is, take a short term 2 to 3 day test to get quick results. The higher your initial short-term test result (about 3.5 pCi/L or higher), the more certain you can be that you should take a short-term follow up test, to confirm the need to take action.

If your first short-term test result is 8.0 pCi/L or higher, which is more than twice EPA's 4 pCi/L action level, you should take a second short-term test immediately. The higher the radon level the more urgent the need to take action to lower the level of radon present.

If your first short-term test result is 3.5 pCi/L or lower, you may choose to conduct a long term radon test, to determine a 6 to 12 month average. You may find it's above the 4.0 pCi/L EPA action level, or perhaps below 3.0 pCi/L. Remember radon levels can fluctuate a lot throughout the year. Long term averages are the most accurate.

Short Term Radon Tests are by far the most common type of radon tests done in homes, they give quick results. In real estate sales the finished test results can be ready in as little as 48 hours if a continuous monitor is used. Real Estate testing with a continuous monitor is normally done by a radon testing professional, who is sometimes the home inspector. for more information on radon's relation to real estate sales click on: (XXX radon and real estate sales)

You can also purchase and sometimes rent an electronic radon monitor designed for homeowner use, to do your own testing. They are very affordable because they can be used, re-set and used again and again, testing in different rooms of the house or loaned out to family and neighbors. Following directions is the main key to accurate test results. For more about using or purchasing a radon monitor see: (XXX)

Short Term Test Kits are easy to use and inexpensive. There are several types of inexpensive "Do it yourself radon test kits" that range in cost from about $8 up to $40 including lab fees. Some states and county health departments even have free kits available, call yours to see what is available. These test devices are usually placed in the home for about 2 to 3 days. It's important to closely follow the test manufacturer's instructions to ensure accurate results. For more information on short term test kits and how the differ from one another click on: (XXX)

For detailed information on "how to conduct" a short term radon test using self test kits or monitors and the advantages and disadvantages of each click on: (XXX) For detailed information on hiring a radon testing professional, how much they charge and different testing options for different purposes, click on: (XXX)

Long Term Radon Tests Due to varying levels of radon found in a home throughout the year, a long term test will usually give a more accurate picture of exposure to the occupants, (as compared to short term tests which give a snap shot or rough estimate). In long term tests there are no closed house conditions to maintain, so the house is tested the way it is actually utilized and lived in.

Long Term Tests are conducted by radon testing professionals or home owners themselves. Most professionals will use the same test kits that are available to homeowners for long term tests. Professionals will typically charge $150 to $300 for a long term radon test.

Long term test kits range in price from about $15 to $40, including lab fees. Professional continuous electronic monitors are primarily for short term testing and are too expensive to tie up in a long term test. The main benefit of hiring a professional to conduct a long term test is to ensure proper testing and to help you interpret test results. For more information go to: (XXX interpreting your test results).

Homeowners can conduct their own long term tests using the same electronic radon monitor used for short term tests (mentioned above). These user friendly test monitors are designed for long and short term testing. They give a continuous digital reading of the radon average level. You can test 2 days up to a year or more. Simply clear the memory to start a new test. They are available from numerous suppliers for under $150 including shipping. As a side benefit these test monitors double as an alarm. If the radon level goes above 4.0 pCi/L a "beep" will sound hourly as and alert. For more information on these electronic radon monitors click on: (XXX)

Remember the purpose of testing if the radon level is 4.0 pCi/L or higher the EPA recommends taking action to lower the level of radon. The EPA also says that even if the level is below 4.0 pCi/L but above 2.0 pCi/L you may want to consider taking action to lower the level of radon. Remember there is no safe level of radon. For information on low levels of radon and related health risks see: (XXX)

In an ideal world the indoor radon levels would be as good as the outdoor air, or better. In taking action to lower indoor radon levels, the goal should always be, to get the radon level as low as practically possible. I have successfully mitigated homes, bringing the indoor average radon level below 0.4 pCi/L. That's lower than the average outside air. That is not uncommon. However some high radon homes can not easily, or cost effectively be brought down to that low of a level; But most homes can fairly easily be brought below the 4.0 pCi/L EPA action level.

If your radon is above 2.0 pCi/L strongly consider, and if 4.0 pCi/L or higher you should take action now to lower that level. For detailed information on how to go about lowering the level of radon in your home or business see: (XXX).

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