What is a Safe Radon Level?
Radon's presence in homes is a matter of great concern because long-term exposure to high radon gas concentrations can lead to an increased lung cancer risk. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that all homes be tested for radon and that corrective action be taken if necessary to reduce exposure.
So what is a safe radon level? While there is no known "safe" level of radon, the EPA has set an action level of 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L) of air. This is the level at which the EPA recommends taking corrective action to reduce exposure.
For all of our Canadian readers, 4pCi/L is equivalent to 148 Bq/m2.
There are a number of ways to reduce radon levels in your home, and the type of corrective action you take will depend on the level of radon present and the type of home you have.
Here's a closer look at radon levels and what you can do to reduce your exposure.
Safe Radon Level: At a Glance
As we mentioned earlier, there is no set "safe" level of radon. However, the EPA has set an action level of 4 pCi/L, which is the level at which they recommend taking action to reduce radon levels.
The EPA's action level is based on the fact that if you are exposed to radon at this level over a long period of time, your risk of developing lung cancer is about 1 in 10,000. This might not seem very high, but it's important to remember that lung cancer is a very serious and deadly disease.
So, while there is no "safe" level of radon, the EPA's action level is a good guideline to follow. If your home has elevated radon levels (above 4.0 pci l), you should take steps to reduce it.
How To Check Your Home's Radon Level
If you're concerned about radon in your home, the best way to find out if you have a problem is to test for it. Radon testing is simple and easy to do, and it's the only way to know for sure if you have a radon problem.
There are two types of radon tests: short-term tests and long-term tests.
Short-Term Radon Tests
Short-term radon tests are typically used to test for radon over a period of 2-90 days. These tests are the most common type of radon test, and they're relatively inexpensive.
Short-term tests can be done with either electronic monitors or charcoal canisters.
Electronic monitors measure radon continuously and can be set to take readings over a period of days, weeks, or even months. On the other hand, charcoal canisters are placed in your home for a set period of time (usually 2-90 days) and then sent to a lab for analysis.
If you use a short-term test, it's important to remember that radon levels can fluctuate from day to day and even from hour to hour. So, a single short-term test might not give you an accurate picture of your home's overall radon level.
For this reason, we recommend using a short-term test first, followed by a long-term test if the results of the short-term test are 4 pCi/L or higher.
Long-Term Radon Tests
Long-term radon tests are used to test for radon over a period of more than 90 days. These tests are more accurate than short-term tests in terms of measuring your home's overall radon level.
If you're thinking of buying a home, it's important to have a long-term radon test done before making the purchase. This will give you an accurate picture of the level of radon in the home and whether it needs to be mitigated.
Long-term radon tests are typically done with either electronic monitors or alpha track detectors.
Electronic monitors, as we mentioned earlier, measure radon continuously and can be set to take readings over a period of months or even years. Alpha track detectors, on the other hand, are placed in the home for a set period of time (usually 90 days) and then sent to a lab to be analyzed.
Both types of long-term radon tests are considered equally reliable. The main difference is that electronic monitors tend to be more expensive than alpha track detectors.
What is the Average Indoor Radon Level?
The average indoor radon level in the United States is about 1.3 pCi/L. However, this number can vary significantly from home to home.
In general, homes in the Midwest and Northeast have higher radon levels than homes in the South and West. This is because of the geological conditions in these regions.
In some areas of the country, such as Colorado, Minnesota, and North Dakota, the average indoor radon level is closer to 3 pCi/L. In these states, it's estimated that 1 in 3 homes has a radon level above 4 pCi/L.
If you live in an area with a high average indoor radon level, it's especially important to test your home for radon and take steps to reduce it if necessary.
What Are the Health Risks of Radon?
Breathing in air that contains radon can damage the lining of your lungs and lead to lung cancer. In fact, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, behind smoking.
Smokers who are exposed to radon have an even greater risk of developing lung cancer. This is because smoking damages the lungs and makes them more susceptible to the effects of radon.
It's important to remember that radon is a radioactive gas, so it can't be seen, smelled, or tasted. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test for it.
If you're thinking of buying a home, we recommend having a radon test done before making the purchase. This will give you an accurate picture of the level of radon in the home and whether it needs to be mitigated.
If you're already living in a home with elevated levels of radon, don't panic.
There are things you can do to reduce the level of radon in your home and protect your health. These include:
While there isn't an official "safe" level of radon, the EPA recommends taking action to reduce your exposure if your home has a radon level of 4 pCi/L or higher. So, if your house has a radon level lower than that, you're probably in the clear.
Of course, the best way to know for sure is to test your home for radon and take action to reduce it if necessary. This will help protect your health and the health of your family.
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I am a professional radon technician who enjoys writing about radon to spread awareness of this harmful, radioactive gas.