4 Seasons Home Inspection, LLC

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4 Seasons Home Inspection, LLC

Linda S. Geczi
Home Inspector
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Radon Frequently Asked Questions

Excerpts and adaptations from New Jersey DEP Radon section, Adapted from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “Indoor Radon”.

What is radon and why is it a concern?

Radon is a radioactive gas that comes from the breakdown of naturally occurring uranium in soil and rock. It is invisible, odorless and tasteless, and can only be detected by specialized tests. Radon enters homes through openings that are in contact with the ground, such as cracks in the foundation, small openings around pipes, and sump pits. 

Radon, like other radioactive materials, undergoes radioactive decay that forms decay products. Radon and its decay products release radioactive energy that can damage lung tissue.  The more radon you are exposed to, and the longer the exposure, the greater the risk of eventually developing lung cancer. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, resulting in 15,000 to 22,000 deaths per year. Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers.

In view of this serious public health problem, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommend that you take action to mitigate your home if your test results indicate radon levels of 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) of radon or more.  There is no safe level of radon since lung cancer can result from low exposures to radon, however, the risk decreases as the radon concentration decreases.  If your test result is less than 4 pCi/L, you may want to discuss with mitigation companies whether the radon level can be brought down still further.  In about half the homes that have been mitigated in New Jersey, radon levels have been brought to less than 1 pCi/L.

In New Jersey, there is a particularly uranium-rich geological formation, called the Reading Prong, which stretches from Pennsylvania through northwestern New Jersey into Southern New York State. Testing of homes built along this geologic formation has revealed high indoor levels of radon gas. Further testing in New Jersey, beyond the Reading Prong area, has shown additional areas where homes have elevated radon levels. This has led the DEP to conclude that radon is a statewide health issue. All homeowners are encouraged to test and, if levels are elevated, residents are urged to consider remediation.

NJDEP Radon Potential Map
How can radon affect people's health?

Almost all risk from radon comes from breathing air with radon and its decay products. Radon decay products cause lung cancer.

There is no safe level of radon -- any exposure poses some risk of cancer. In two 1999 reports, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) concluded after an exhaustive review that radon in indoor air is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after cigarette smoking. The NAS estimated that approximately 21,000+ Americans die every year from radon-related lung cancer.

How do I know if there is radon in my home?

You cannot see, feel, smell, or taste radon. Testing your home is the only way to know if you and your family are at risk from radon. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing for radon in all homes. Radon testing is relatively inexpensive and easy. Millions of Americans have already had their homes tested for radon.

What can I do to protect myself and my family from radon?

The first step is to test your home for radon. If it is at or above EPA's Action Level of 4.0pCi/L (4 picocuries per liter) mitigation should be performed. You may want to take action if the levels are less than 4.0 pCi/L. In most cases, radon levels can be brought below 2 pCi/L with current mitigation techniques.

The U.S. Surgeon General and the EPA recommend all houses be tested for radon. Houses with high radon levels can be mitigated. The most common type of radon mitigation is sub-slab depressurization system. This system uses venting and sealing to the lower the radon levels in a home. A pipe is installed that runs from below the basement flooring to above the roofline, with a fan at the top that draws radon out from under the slab. Cracks and openings in the foundation are sealed. The radon is vented through the pipe to the outside, where it is quickly diluted.  After mitigation is in place, a mitigation technician performs a post-mitigation radon test to ensure the system is functioning properly.  The system should function to reduce the radon level to below 4pCi/L.

People who have private wells should test their well water (link to well water section) to ensure that radon levels meet EPA's newly proposed standard.

For more information, read the EPA's A Citizen's Guide to Radon and How to Find a Qualified Radon Service Professional in Your Area

The above-adapted  information is provided by the Environmental Protection Agency for educational purposes.