Radon - what is it and who should test for it?
Radon is a by-product of the breakdown of granite bedrock. It is a radioactive gas, a known carcinogen, and an element that can neither be sensed by human taste nor smell. It is the leading cause of lung cancer for non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer for the general population, and it is something you should be aware of when it comes to protecting yourself and your home.
Radon in Georgia:
Since radon comes from the breakdown of granite bedrock, if you live in a region with limited granite, there will naturally be less radon. Alas - Georgia has great deal of granite (as evidenced by our monolithic granite landmark known as Stone Mountain) … and we have radon. There are some areas of Georgia where it is more prevalent than others, but, in general, it is recommended to test.
Radon in the environment vs. Radon in your home:
Radon is not a concern in the natural outdoor environment because it is diluted and dispersed, but it is a problem in enclosed spaces because it can build-up to levels that are recognized by the EPA as hazardous (above 4.0 pCi/L). The primary means of mitigating radon is to provide additional ventilation below the structure through a system of pipes and fans. While this is not a complex endeavor, it can be costly, and so testing for the presence of radon in "closed home conditions" has become more common during the home-buying transaction.
Now that we have a basic understanding of what radon is, let's take a few moments to answer some questions and dispel some common myths about radon and radon testing.
"This neighborhood doesn't have radon, I don't need to test."
Radon can be a tricky thing. One home can test positive for it, and its neighbor can test negative. This can be a result of the soils and geologic structure below the foundation, or it can be related to the foundation itself. It can also be related to the general "tightness" of the construction of the individual home itself - at least to some degree.
"We didn't test back in my day! It must be a gimmick."
As an inspector, I sometimes hear older agents and well-intended relatives advise my clients that they never tested for radon during their previous home-purchase, that it must be a gimmick. The reality is that testing and remediation has become more prevalent as our society better understands carcinogens and the built environment, and because of key advancements in technology make testing affordable, reliable, and fast so that you can make important decisions as part of your home buying process.
"Results are not reliable."
I sometimes hear about client's concerns regarding the security and reliability of the results. The general concern is that someone will tamper with the device or open doors and windows. The reality is that our calibrated, computerized equipment takes an hourly sample - and we can tell if someone has picked up or played with the unit, if there are unusual spikes due to weather, or if there are other sudden changes in the home. If there is any question about the reliability of the data that has been reviewed - standard protocol requires testing for a longer duration for more data.
"Vapor barriers block radon, so this house should be fine."
This one is true… somewhat! Quality vapor barriers and sealing foundation cracks can help mitigate radon gas, at least to some degree. It is still critical to test/monitor for radon levels, however. If your levels are especially high to begin with or drifted higher over time…. you need additional mitigation.
"I have a system in place already, I don't need a radon test."
Wrong! It is important to test your existing systems at least every two years to be sure the system is calibrated and working properly. Contact your system installer or an independent radon tester (like Cingo!)
If you're interested in more information on radon, visit the EPAs guideline on Radon Reduction (https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-02/documents/2013_consumers_guide_to_radon_reduction.pdf)
If you'd like to learn more about our Radon Testing services, either as part of a home inspection or an independent evaluation, feel free to call our care center at 1 (855) 919-9090.
About Cingo: The name Cingo means to surround and secure, conveying the company's commitment to home protection. The company has been protecting families in the Southeast since 1974. It provides home protection services throughout Georgia and South Carolina, including Atlanta, Augusta, Charleston, Douglas, Dublin, Milledgeville, Savannah, Vidalia, Waycross and all points in between. Cingo was named a Best Place to Work in Georgia by Georgia Trend Magazine and listed as a National Best & Brightest Company to Work For. Learn more at www.cingohome.com.