View Full Version : Consumer Reports Tests Lead & Radon Test Kits

Bruce Breedlove
08-11-2008, 02:25 PM
In their September 2008 issue (on newsstands now) Consumer Reports reports their findings after testing 7 lead test kits and 11 radon test kits. These are the test kits that you find for sale at Home Depot, Lowe's and other home improvement and hardware stores. CR did not test the short-term radon measurement devices used by many radon measurement professionals (e.g., E-PERMs, CRMs, etc.).

Interestingly, CR rated lead test kits based on ease of use and not accuracy. The lowest-rated lead test kit apparently took a hit because "Small type makes directions hard to read". Another kit (not in the results) was critisized because the results were not instantaneous (a sample is mailed in for lab testing). They critisized one kit because it reported any level below the government's action level as "safe".

I was much more interested in their findings for the radon test kits. Of the 11 radon test kits they tested 7 were short-term charcoal devices, 3 were long-term alpha tract detectors and 1 was a digital monitor. Their findings were:

Not surprisingly, "Long-term devices are more accurate". Of the short-term devices only one device "was accurate enough for us to recommend". "Some kits underreported radon." CR tested the accuracy of the 7 short-term devices and found that two devices underreported radon by as much as 40% and the measured radon concentration by two devices was off by 10% - 25% from the known radon concentration.

CR also measured the reliability of the short-term devices ("how similar the readings were for several samples exposed under identical conditions") and found two devices varied by between 10% and 15% and the other 5 devices varied by less than 8%.

Without naming names one short-term device (the one ranked the worst of the seven) scored Poor for accuracy and Fair for Reliability.

CR gave the digital monitor (the one we have all seen advertised for $75 to $125) a score of Good for Accuracy and Very Good for Reliability. They said this monitor "can be used for short- and long-term testing".

I would like to have seen CR go a little more in depth and compare the home test kits to devices used by radon measurement professionals so homeowners and home buyers could get a better idea of how reliable their radon measurement results are. At least they will get some people to thinking about radon.