“You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live.”–Stuart Scott

Seventeen days in the book of this year 2017. Many of us are finding ourselves back in the full swing of things. Routines, schedules, and our busy lifestyle make it seem like sometimes we forget to breathe, but it is always prudent to sometimes slow down and look at the environment around them. This is especially true for the  place that you spend most of your time, your home. What if I told you that the second leading cause of “Lung Cancer” is found in an odorless, colorless gas that is in your home? According to the National Cancer Institute Scientists estimate that 15,000 to 22,000 lung cancer deaths in the United States each year are related to Radon. That is why in 2016 the EPA decided to designate the month of January as “Radon Awareness Month”. So what is Radon? How do you test for it? What can you do if you do have it?

WHAT IS RADON GAS

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that, when it has accumulated in a building in sufficient quantities, may present health risks to persons who are exposed to it over time. Radon enters a building through cracks in the floor, or through vents. The video below from the Florida Department of Health explains Radon more.

 

A few statements & facts about “Radon”

  1. The Florida Department of Health estimates that 1 out 5 homes in Florida have elevated levels of “Radon”. CLICK HERE and enter your zip code to see if “Radon” has been reported around you.
  2. In the state of Florida Radon Testing is required for State licensed, regulated, owned or operated Facilities. This requirement is the same for all buildings in facilities required to be tested for radon per Florida Statue 404.056.
  3. NOTIFICATION ON REAL ESTATE DOCUMENTS.  Notification shall be provided on at least one document, form, or application executed at the time of, or prior to, contract for sale and purchase of any building or execution of a rental agreement for any building. CLICK HERE to see the language that used be used in real estate documents.
  4.  In Florida all businesses and individuals offering radon sampling, measurement interpretation, or mitigation services must be certified by the department. CLICK HERE for a list of certified Florida Certified Radon Measurement Specialists and Technicians
  5. Radon levels can vary due the time of year, time of day, or weather conditions.

 

HOW IS RADON TESTED FOR 

Very simply, Radon is tested by hiring a certified specialist. This could be through an environmental company, or your local home inspector, make sure they are certified. While there are several do it yourself test kits, it is important to know not all “Radon Tests” are the same. It is also important to know that the testing device needs to be placed in a certain location. There are Passive devices that do not need power to function, and Active devices which require power to function. From there the test are broken up into four different kinds of tests:

1. Short-term Tests: Activated Carbon Adsorption (AC)-Passive Device

2. Short-term Test: Charcoal Liquid Scintillation (LS)-Passive Device

Most short term radon tests will use activated charcoal to absorb the radon gas in the air. Various short terms tests kits will include some type container filled with activated charcoal, usually perforated or screened and has a filter to keep out radon decay products. At the end of testing, the absorber is resealed and returned to the vendor for processing and evaluation

 Advantages
• Quick and easy. Testing usually takes between 2-90 days depending on the type of test, and time requirements.
• Practical for screening purposes over a short period of time.

Disadvantages
• Some charcoal absorbers are more sensitive than others to temperature and humidity, which could distort the actual Radon levels.
• Less likely to tell you a year-round average radon level and will record the highest level rating, while not providing you data on how long that rating was for.

              


3. Long-term Tests: Alpha-Track Detection (AT)-Passive Device 

The detector is a small sheet of special plastic material enclosed in a container with a filter-covered opening. The radon gas that enters the container decays, emitting alpha particles. The particles strike the plastic sheet, leaving tracks that can be chemically enhanced and counted using a microscope or an automated counting system.

The detectors are installed according to instructions supplied by the vendor. They are left for periods from one to three months for screening and from three to twelve months for long-term evaluations. At the end of the desired testing period, they are returned to the vendor for processing and evaluation.

Advantages
• Relatively low-cost services.
• More likely to tell you year-round average radon levels.

 Disadvantages
• Relatively long measurement period (3 months is the recommended minimum for most long-term kits).


4. Professional Testing: Continuous Radon Monitoring (CR)-Active Device

There are three types of CR monitors used for radon measurements, usually by radon measurement professionals. The test types are: 1) Scintillation, 2) Ionization Chamber, and 3) Solid-State Detection. This type of radon monitoring follows the ambient radon levels within a short time lag due to the inherent delay of the radon decay products.

Advantages

  • Follows the variations in radon levels.
  • Provides radon data on location.
  • Has the highest accuracy and precision over short measurement periods.

Disadvantages

  • High cost for service requiring a professional to perform the measurement.

 

As a State of  Florida Certified Radon Measurement Technician, and licensed Home Inspector, I recommend anyone that is buying a home to first start off with a Short Term Carbon activated test. Due to the inspections periods of 7-10 days during the purchasing phase of a home, the short term test is what is most cost effective. This test will give you first an idea of what the levels of Radon are in a home. If the levels are over the Federal EPA action level of 4 pCi/L, i would then recommended a second test using a Continuous Radon Monitoring (CR)-Active Device. If you already moved in your home with-out ever getting a Radon Test, then I would recommend the same, but with the Short Term Carbon activated test being longer anywhere between 30-90 days. It is not weather there is is Radon in a home, but the levels of it.

WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU HAVE RADON 

Depending on circumstances, there are several remediation techniques that can be done to a home if there are elevated levels of Radon. If your home has a slab on grade, like many here in South Florida, the most practical thing to do, is to add a “Fresh Air Intake”. Most residential fresh air intakes are either 4 or 6 in. in diameter. They consist of an adjustable barometric damper that is connected to an insulated pipe which ties into the return air. They are usually mounted on the sidewall of the home and function when the indoor blower cycles. It brings in fresh air from the outside, into your home. While many recommend also sealing cracks, vents, and penetration, that can be challenging once the home is built, but should be done in areas where on can reach.

If your home is elevated with a crawlspace, and has a wood floor. Remediation consist of a technique called “Sub Membrane Depressurization”, which consist sealing the ground bare earth floor with a durable polyethylene sheet, sealing the foundation columns, walls, and all seems. Radon is then collected from the bottom of the plastic sheet with the use of a “Radon Fan” and exaust above the eve of the home.

You will hear more and more about Radon in the coming years, as the EPA and many states Health Departments have enacted action plans to make people aware. For you builders and construction proffesionals out there, you will notice permit fee’s slightly going up, with an increase of the “Surcharge Permit Fee” or “Radon Fee”. You will get a big backlash from people out there that hate the EPA, and state that this is all a scam. My take on it is this: First it is very economical to do the test, it does not hurt to know. Secondly, why then does the State of Florida required Radon Test for State licensed, regulated, owned or operated facilities.”It’s better to be safe than sorry”.

Capital Property Inspections is a State of Florida licensed and insured property inspection company. We offer over 30 different types of inspections, and provide extensive data on properties to real estate buyers, sellers, realtors, insurance companies, mortgage companies, and title attorneys that are involved in a real estate transaction. We have conducted over 5,000 combined residential & commercial property inspections, insurance inspections, and environmental inspections. Please inquire with-in if you would like to have a Radon Test in your property.