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Thread: Radon

  1. #1
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    Default Radon

    OK, I have gotten rid of my ducks but now am concerned about Radon.
    I am a home inspector in an area that usually doesn't have radon issues and have never gotten into radon testing as I have never had a client request it. I moved into a house a couple of years ago that has a walk out basement that my son is living in. I started to think there was some chance of radon and purchased a radon detector from amazon.

    Amazon.com: Safety Siren Pro Series HS71512 3 Radon Gas Detector: Home Improvement

    I am seeing levels of 3.5. They say mitigate at 4. Is this an accurate detector and should I be concerned?

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Radon

    That device has its place and that is for a homeowner to have a general idea of radon levels in the home. I know of home inspectors who use these devices and, in my opinion, that is an improper use of the devices.

    These devices are not EPA approved for use by a radon measurement professional. The devices display an instantanious reading and (I believe) a 2-day and/or a 7-day average.

    One big problem I have with the devices is that I doubt anybody ever has them calibrated because calibration would probably cost as much as buying a new device. (I don't know if the devices could even be calibrated. My guess is they are intended to be disposable.) And over time I am sure the devices become less and less accurate as the detector becomes covered with dust.

    Just in the last week two real estate agents had me do a retest on houses where a home inspector had used these devices. I asked one of them if the inspector provided a report of any kind and she said that he simply provides a photo of the device displaying the radon measurement. Amazing!

    That said, I have met and spoken with the manufacturer of these devices (at Inspection World) and the devices are well-made and of much better quality that I had first suspected. But again my opinion is that the devices should be used by a homeowner to monitor radon levels in their home after an initial radon test conducted with EPA-approved devices.

    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
    Bruce Breedlove
    www.avaloninspection.com

  3. #3
    Garry Blankenship's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radon

    Frustrating stuff. Can't see, taste or smell it. The presence / levels you suggest would encourage me to hire a pro for both accuracy and mitigation recommendations.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Radon

    A couple more reasons why using the Safety Siren Pro radon monitor does not usually meet EPA protocols or industry best practices:

    EPA protocols state the devices is to be placed at least 20" above the floor and away from exterior walls. The Safety Siren Pro device is designed to be plugged into a wall outlet. Most wall outlets are well less than 20" above the floor.

    The reason for the 20" requirement is so the device is sampling the air that people breathe. Even while they are in bed most people's noses are well above the level of most wall outlets.

    It is also good practice to place the device in the center of the room rather than along a wall (again so the device is sampling the air that people breathe). The Safety Siren Pro device is snug up against a wall (hopefully not an exterior wall) when it is plugged into a wall outlet.

    "Baseball is like church. Many attend but few understand." Leo Durocher
    Bruce Breedlove
    www.avaloninspection.com

  5. #5
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    Post Re: Radon

    The detector you are using is giving you a reading. That reading is high enough that a mitigation system would probably cut it in half, or better. Have an actual test done to confirm the reading you are getting.

    Randall Aldering GHI BAOM MSM
    Housesmithe Inspection
    www.housesmithe.com

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Radon

    I would advise a long term test be started. Kits are available from most labs for less than $40.00.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Radon

    Long ago I used these Safety Siren devices before I upgraded to Sun Nuclear and Femto devices. I did side by side tests with the Siren and found the Siren to be accurate. I always put the Siren on an extension cord to get it away from the floor and walls.

    The reading you are getting is below the action threshold. The EPA recommends long term testing and that makes sense with the way radon levels fluctuate. My two cents is to leave your Siren in place for a year and record the readings on a weekly basis. If you get readings above 4 during that time, then average the results for that year.

    And finally, as far as the health risks from low level radon exposure, well.........do some research. Long ago the Citizen's Guide had asteriked in fine print that said something similar to exposure of 14 hours per day for 70 years. When I asked the regional head of the EPA about why they removed that from the later issues of the pamphlet, he said that it confused people.

    No kidding.

    So, I asked him what my risk was breathing 4 pCi/l for 10 hours a day and he said "We can't determine what your risk is."

    I have read a lot on the subject and most of the actual research papers, but I avoid discussions with customers over the health risks of low level radon exposure. If pressed, I will tell them that it's my observation that if the short term test comes in above 4, then most buyers will ask the seller to mitigate. In Colorado, once a test has been done that comes in above 4, then sellers are obligated to disclose that to a buyer (until the home has been mitigated.)


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Radon

    I too would recommend a long-term test. Radon levels can fluctuate greatly throughout the year. The tests kits are inexpensive and will give you a good idea of whether or not it's necessary spend money on mitigation. There are a lot of different mitigation methods on the market. So do a lot of research before choosing one if that is what you end up doing.


  9. #9
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    Question Re: Radon

    OK, I just have to play Devils Advocate.
    Does anyone have firsthand experience with anyone that is impacted by radon?
    The operative word is "firsthand"
    I get it, that the EPA claims that Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer behind smoking.
    I've been in and around the building industry for over forty years and I have never had anyone tell me they or someone they know, has been impacted by radon.
    I will admit that I live in a low level radon area and I don't know of anyones great grandfather that worked in a german uranium mine.

    Help me see the light!!


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Radon

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Huling View Post
    OK, I just have to play Devils Advocate.
    Does anyone have firsthand experience with anyone that is impacted by radon?
    Help me see the light!!
    Unless you know an old timer uranium miner, it is unlikely that you will know anyone suffering from radon caused health issues. One of my good friends died at 47 last Saturday from lung cancer. He and I started this home inspection business. He never smoked in his life nor was he ever around smoking.

    So, the radon question came up. His doctors say that there is no way to know if radon was a factor. About ten years ago, he tested his own home and it came in at about 6, so he mitigated it. However, he never spent a lot of time in his basement and had lived in the home for about eight years when he mitigated it.

    I once asked a "radon expert" giving a seminar, to name someone who had died of low level radon exposure. His response was that nobody can name anyone who died from smoking.

    So, for me, I am not going to take on the EPA about the health risks but rather, I will discuss the impact radon has on selling a home. Around here, it is big. If a home comes in above 4, buyers will ask to have it mitigated.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Radon

    Radon, is an interesting issue for me.

    I know there has to be some risk but is the risk high enough to worry much about it?

    I spent 20 years working with radioisotopes and wore a badge every day and was monitored for dosing every month.

    I will say I am on the fence on this one. I can not see how any of the studies can provide a good baseline and control to draw a conclusive risk assessment.

    I know there has to be some risk but I just do not know if it is that high. I would argue there are other items in the home that are much riskier and yet are never mentioned.

    If you live in Denver should we tell you to move?

    Just for fun-

    Radon: Truth vs. myth

    This is my opinion only, but would love some good evidence, I am a bit skeptical (can your tell ; )

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Radon

    Don Hester,

    Thank you for that very enlightening and informative article. I have long suspected the EPA was fear mongering and now I believe it even more.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: Radon

    Marshall,

    I threw that out there just to stir the pot a bit.

    I worked in biotech for 25 years in cancer and immunology research.

    I understand the concern for exposure but I am just not convinced that the risk is that high. I am waiting to be convinced or put it to rest.

    That article has a bias also so you have to read between the lines a bit.

    They (EPA) are basing the risks on some modeling that may not be in step with real world conditions and individual variability.

    I am a believer in science but it is not always perfect, good science will stand up against our ever improving ability in analysis.

    Some of this EPA data is based on certain assumptions and other modeling.

    Heck I spent 25 years handling isotopes I can not wait to see what I will grow

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  14. #14
    Patrick McCaffery's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radon

    Benjamin,


    Obviously you are concerned, as your son is living in thebasement. While the device used to testmay not be reliable, it may still indicate the presence of Radon.

    As varying weather conditions can affect the level ofRadon during the test and because this does not involve a residential homesale, I would agree with the recommendation to do extended testing. This testing should be done using EPAapproved canisters.

    The EPA recommends mitigation if the average readings areabove 4.0 pCi/L, so I would not mitigate the home unless the average readingswere over 4.0 pCi/L.

    As a Certified Residential Measurement Provider, it hasnot been proven to me that Radon results in over 21,000 deaths per year asclaimed by the EPA. In the books andtraining that I have received it indicates that, most of the statistics were takenfrom Mine Workers. I had never heard ofRadon until I became a Home Inspector.

    Since you do have a concern, I would test using reliabledevices and mitigate as required.



  15. #15
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    Default Re: Radon

    The EPA's website at: Health Risks | Radon | US Environmental Protection Agency , states:
    "The average radon concentration in the indoor air of America's homes is about 1.3 pCi/L. It is upon this level that EPA based its estimate of 20,000 radon-related lung cancers a year upon. It is for this simple reason that EPA recommends that Americans consider fixing their homes when the radon level is between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L. "

    "Unfortunately, many Americans presume that because the action level is 4 pCi/L, a radon level of less than 4 pCi/L is "safe". This perception is altogether too common in the residential real estate market. In managing any risk, we should be concerned with the greatest risk. For most Americans, their greatest exposure to radon is in their homes; especially in rooms that are below grade (e.g., basements), rooms that are in contact with the ground and those rooms immediately above them."

    The EPA's " Home Buyer's & Seller's Guide to Radon" states

    "Radon levels less than 4 pCi/L still pose a risk and, in many cases, may be reduced."

    "Short-term tests can be used to decide whether to reduce the home's high radon levels. However, the closer the short-term testing result is to 4 pCi/L, the less certainty there is about whether the home's year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk and that radon levels can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below in most homes."

    Erby Crofutt, Georgetown, KY - Read my Blog here: Erby the Central Kentucky Home Inspector B4 U Close Home Inspections www.b4uclose.com www.kentuckyradon.com
    Find on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/B4UCloseInspections

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Radon

    Erby,

    Believe me I understand what the EPA states, but I am a bit skeptical of how they came to this risk assessment.

    When you do research on the effect of a given substance they have to use modeling to perform the assessment.

    I am not sure that the models and extrapolation of workers in mines is quite accurate in the real world situations.

    I am not saying that there is some risk but I want to know what the real risk is. Is it greater than sitting in front of your computer monitor?

    We know smoking is the much greater risk.

    That said I feel the bigger risk in the home is most people do not use their ventilation properly in the home thus trapping indoor air pollutants in the home.

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  17. #17

    Default Re: Radon

    Another factor in the Radon equation is that houses are now built so tightly that it's easier for the levels to be elevated, unless there's some kind of ventilation system.
    There was an interesting Op Ed piece in the New York Times about radon exposure, which brought up an interesting point: what about testing in schools, offices and daycare facilities?
    In 2009 the World Health Organization recommended dropping the actionable level from 4.0 pCi/L down to 2.7, but there's no international agreement over what the level should be. I think most of Europe uses lower numbers.
    Our house tested at 11, so we had a mitigation system put in. The house was built in 1942 and was drafty as hell until we started plugging the air leaks. We recently did a long-term test and it came back as 0.5.

    Welmoed Sisson
    Inspections by Bob, LLC, Boyds, MD
    "Given sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine."

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Radon

    This is from the EPA-

    Researchers have combined and analyzed data from all radon studies conducted in Canada and the United States. By combining the data from these studies, scientists were able to analyze data from thousands of people. The results of this analysis demonstrated a slightly increased risk of lung cancer for individuals with elevated exposure to household radon. This increased risk was consistent with the estimated level of risk based on studies of underground miners.

    Here is another study from Iowa

    THE IOWA RADON LUNG CANCER STUDY

    Here is a more technical analysis

    Radon

    My biggest question is the cost of this remediation versus the true risk factors involved and the controls. I think there is a risk but what is the relationship to other environmental factors that may not be accounted for.

    Don Hester
    NCW Home Inspections, LLC
    Wa. St. Licensed H I #647, WSDA #80050, http://www.ncwhomeinspections.com

  19. #19
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    Wink Re: Radon

    Just to add more uncertainty to the subject. Here is an information sheet put out by the WHO that puts out many of the same arguements as the EPA guidelines. However, on page five they put in a table with the average levels and action levels of different countries around the world. It uses a different measure called becquerel/m3, but demonstrates that there is no consistency surrounding what is considered a safe level in the home. The lowest action level is 100 bq/m3 in Lithuania and the highest is 1000 bq/m3 with the US at 150 and Canada at 800. I guess what we can deduce from this is that the Swiss and Canadians are more resilient than the Lithuanians and US Americans...
    www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/env/Radon_Info_sheet.pdf


  20. #20
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    Default Re: Radon

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold Doughty View Post
    Just to add more uncertainty to the subject. Here is an information sheet put out by the WHO that puts out many of the same arguements as the EPA guidelines. However, on page five they put in a table with the average levels and action levels of different countries around the world. It uses a different measure called becquerel/m3, but demonstrates that there is no consistency surrounding what is considered a safe level in the home. The lowest action level is 100 bq/m3 in Lithuania and the highest is 1000 bq/m3 with the US at 150 and Canada at 800. I guess what we can deduce from this is that the Swiss and Canadians are more resilient than the Lithuanians and US Americans...
    www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/env/Radon_Info_sheet.pdf
    Interesting, this is sounding more and more like mold...
    Maybe Cahomin will chime in!


  21. #21
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    Default Re: Radon

    That WHO information sheet is out of date. Since that was published, many countries have fell into line with the US. For instance Canada has since changed the action threshold to 200 Bq/m3.

    Government of Canada Radon Guideline


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Radon

    Quote Originally Posted by Lon Henderson View Post
    That WHO information sheet is out of date. Since that was published, many countries have fell into line with the US. For instance Canada has since changed the action threshold to 200 Bq/m3.

    Government of Canada Radon Guideline
    That is about 5.4 pCi/L.............

    WHO still has 100 Bq/m3 or about 2.7pCi/L as their recomended high level.
    WHO | WHO calls for tighter standards on indoor radon

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Radon

    What I would do is a follow-up long term test (90 days - 1yr.) using an Alpha tract detector. Easy and inexpensive. I would purchase it directly from a laboratory that's registered with my state. Maybe I'm just being overly cautious here, but my idea is ... if you purchase a device from off the shelf at a hardware store of order it form Amazon or Ebay ... you don't know where it's been ...


  24. #24
    mathew stouffer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Radon

    They test on mice It's the EPA they don't know themselves where and how they compiled the data its just there, but they have a lot of home owners worried and radon is a great money maker.


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