The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L, and about 4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. The U.S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels. While this goal is not yet technologically achievable in all cases, most homes today can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below.
Year-long testing is the best way to determine what radon levels are in your home. EPA believes that any radon exposure poses some risk—no level of radon is safe. Even radon levels below 4 pCi/L pose some risk, and you can reduce your risk of lung cancer by lowering your radon level.
If your living patterns change and you begin occupying a lower level of your home (such as a basement) you should retest your home on that level. Even if your test result is below 4 pCi/L, you may want to test again sometime in future.
More and more, home buyers and renters are asking about radon levels before they buy or rent a home. Because real estate sales happen quickly, there is often little time to deal with radon and other issues. The best thing to do is to test for radon now and save the results in case the buyer is interested in them. Fix a problem if it exists so it won’t complicate your home sale. If you are planning to move, the EPA provides Radon Resources for Home Buyers and Sellers which addresses some common questions.
Today many homes are built to prevent radon from entering the structure. If you are buying or renting a new home, ask the owner or builder if it has radon-resistant features.
Radon In Water
Compared to radon entering the home through soil, radon entering the home through water usually carries little risk.
While radon in water is not a problem in homes served by most public water supplies, it has been found in well water. If you’re on a public water supply are concerned that radon may be entering your home through the water, call your public water supplier. If your water comes from a private well, contact a lab certified to measure radiation in water to have your water tested.
Radon in water can be released into the air you breathe when showering and through other household uses. Research suggests swallowing water with high radon levels may pose risks, although risks from swallowing water containing radon are believed to be much lower than those from breathing air containing radon.
EPA Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791)
Radon problems in water can be readily fixed. The most effective treatment is to remove radon from the water before it enters the home. This is called point-of-entry treatment. Treatment at your water tap is called point-of-use treatment. Unfortunately, point-of-use treatment will not reduce most of the inhalation risk from radon.
Call your state radon office or the EPA Drinking Water Hotline (800-426-4791) for more information on radon in water.
How To Lower The Radon Level In Your Home
Since there is no known safe level of radon, there can always be some risk, but the risk can be reduced by lowering the radon level in your home.
A variety of methods are used to reduce radon in your home. In some cases, sealing cracks in floors and walls may help reduce radon. In other cases, simple systems using pipes and fans may be used. These easy-to-install systems remove radon gas from below the concrete floor, foundation or crawl space before it can enter the home. The right system depends on the design of your home and other factors.
Ways to reduce radon in your home are discussed in the EPA Consumer’s Guide to Radon Reduction.
The cost of making repairs to reduce radon depends on how your home was built and the extent of the radon problem. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs like painting or having a new hot water heater installed. The average cost is about $1,200 for a contractor to fix, although this can range from about $500 to about $2,500.
The state radon office can provide lists of certified contractors. Picking someone to fix your radon problem is much like choosing a contractor for other home repairs — you may want to get references and more than one estimate.
You also should test your home again after it is fixed to be sure that radon levels have been reduced. Most radon reduction systems include a monitor that will alert you if the system needs servicing. In addition, it’s a good idea to retest your home sometime in the future to be sure radon levels remain low.
Radon and Home Renovations
If you are planning any major structural renovation, such as converting an unfinished basement area into living space, it is especially important to test the area for radon before you begin the renovation. If your test results indicate a radon problem, radon-resistant techniques can be inexpensively included as part of the renovation. Because major renovations can change the level of radon in any home, always test again after work is completed.
Radon is a radioactive gas byproduct of the natural decay of uranium found in nearly all soils. It typically moves up through the ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes in the foundation. Your home traps radon inside where it can build up. Any home not specifically constructed to be radon resistant may have a radon problem.
Radon from soil gas is the main cause of radon problems. Sometimes radon enters the home through well water. In a small number of homes, the building materials can give off radon, too. However, building materials rarely cause radon problems by themselves.
Nearly one of every 15 homes in the U.S. has elevated radon levels, including in Kentucky. Testing is the only way to know if your home is impacted by radon.
Radon gets in through:
- Cracks in solid floors
- Construction joints
- Cracks in walls
- Gaps in suspended floors
- Gaps around service pipes
- Cavities inside walls
- The water supply
Test your home now and save your results. If you find high radon levels, fix your home before you decide to sell it.
It makes good sense to have a home built radon resistant as opposed to mitigating after the house is completed. Cost for radon resistant new construction usually costs $500 or less. Mitigation usually costs $800 - $1,000.