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Radon FAQ

1. What is radon?

ANSWER: Radon is an odorless and invisible radioactive gas that in produced from the natural breakdown of the uranium found in most rocks and soils. As the breakdown occurs, radon emits atomic particles into the air we breathe.

2. Why should I be concerned about Radon?

Once inhaled, these particles can be deposited in our lungs. The energy associated with these particles can alter cell DNA, thus increasing the risk of lung cancer. In fact, he Surgeon General of the US has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the US. The National Academy of Science estimates that radon causes between 15,000 and 22,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the US. Any home can have radon.

3. How do I know if my home has radon?

The only way to know is to have the home or building tested for radon. For this reason, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Surgeon General recommend testing all homes for radon every two years! HABITEC recommends that buildings in Zone 1 (High Risk) areas with basements be tested every year.

Radon can enter the home through cracks in the concrete foundation or around openings at plumbing and/or electrical penetrations. Radon gas will follow the path of least resistance as it leaves the soil and enters the atmosphere.

On average, 1 out of every 15 homes in the US is estimated to have an elevated radon level. The risk of radon exposure varies by location. In the 1980s, it was determined that 6% of homes in the U.S. had elevated levels of radon. In contrast, 16% of homes in TN have elevated levels of radon. Today, it is known that portions of TN have even higher rates of radon than originally thought. Specifically, the counties of Davidson, Williamson and Rutherford are included in these areas. Brentwood is the only jurisdiction in TN where radon-resistant building techniques are used in all new construction.

4. How do you test for radon?

HABITEC will conduct radon sampling using a Continuous Radon Monitor (CRM) or charcoal liquid scintillation (LS) canisters. Sampling and testing will be in accordance with a modified version of EPA guidelines, or equipment manufacturer guidelines, as applicable.

The CRM is preferred method for a number of reasons. First, the CRM is a scientific instrument that completes the test on site at the structure. The canisters must be sent in to a lab for analysis. Second, the CRM provides same day results. After the CRM is recovered from the site the information gathered by the CRM is downloaded to a computer for analysis and inclusion into a report. Results from the canisters must be sent back from the lab and this usually takes several days. Third, the CRM is tamper resistant. There are built-in monitors to note if the CRM was moved or if electrical power is disturbed from the monitor. You will not know if someone tampered with the canister.

HABITEC can safely and professionally sample the air in your home or building. That sample is then processed to see if radon is a concern for the structure. A written report is provided to the Client in a timely manner indicating the radon sampling and test results. Also, if the radon level in the structure exceeds EPA guidelines, HABITEC can suggest methods to mitigate the situation.

5. What precautions are necessary to complete a radon test?

Several precautions must be exercised to insure a successful radon test. Most of these are presented to the property owner in a Closed House letter. Basically, the building must be maintained in a closed condition except for normal entry and exit. Doors and windows should remain closed and the HVAC system should be operated as it normally would. Placement of the test devices is important also. The radon measurement technician should be aware of all of these precautions.

6. How do I know if the radon measurement technician knows what he/she is doing?

The radon measurement technician should have been trained and certified in accordance with the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) protocol for radon measurement. NEHA also offers certification testing for radon measurement technicians. A list of certified radon measurement technicians is available on their website at

7. How will the results of the radon test be presented?

A reputable radon measurement technician will forward a report that includes tabular and bar graph representation of the radon test results in an hour-by-hour presentation. (Canister tests do not have this capability.) The technician should offer an explanation to help you interpret and understand the test results.

8. How will I know if my building passes the test?

The test is not a pass/fail in the sense that something must be done. Your test results will be a number that indicates an average radon measurement in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). The EPA has established a recommended maximum indoor reading of 4 pCi/L. If your test results are equal to or greater than 4 pCi/L the EPA recommends mitigation to bring the level down. The EPA also says that NO value of radon measurement that exceeds the outdoor value should be considered acceptable.

9. Are some buildings more likely to have radon than others?

Yes. Buildings built on a slab or basement are more likely to have higher radon readings than homes built on a crawl space. Crawl spaces usually have vents than provide a path of least resistance to radon so that the radon is less likely to enter the building. However, if these vents are closed (as some homeowners do in the winter to conserve heat) then buildings on a crawl space are similar to homes with a basement.

10. How much does a radon test cost?

The cost of a radon test varies by the type of device used and whether or not the test is part of building inspection. CRM testing is usually a little more expensive than canister testing.

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