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Testing your Home for Radon Gas

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Testing your Home for Radon Gas

By Ruth MacEachern

Product Manager

Jan 05, 2021

Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is formed by the decay of radioactive elements in the ground.  While it cannot be seen, smelled, or tasted, it can be inhaled into the lungs along with dust particles called Radon Daughters where it releases radioactive Alpha particles that can damage tissues and increase the risk of lung cancer.

Radon is almost everywhere in low quantities and is normally harmless, but concentrated above safe levels indoors, it can become dangerous.  In areas of the country where radon levels are naturally higher, it is important to take steps to reduce the risk of Radon to your health.

Radon Testing

To determine whether your home has a problem with Radon gas, you should start by finding out how much of the gas is present.  Home testing kits are available, or you can arrange for professional assistance from a specialist.

Testing kits are straightforward to use and available from some DIY stores and online.  Several different types are available including charcoal cannisters, liquid scintillation vials and modern electronic systems.  Short- and long-term testing kits are available.  For most homeowners and landlords, short term testing is adequate.  Because levels of Radon can vary over time, testing kits need to run for a period of time and provide an average reading.  Most tests take between 2 and 90 days.

There are industry standards for these testing kits, so ensure that the one you choose meets those standards for accuracy.

Testing Process

You should test for radon in the lowest level of your home where people spend time – normally this will be the ground floor, although if you have a cellar or basement that you use regularly, it will be done there.  You should avoid testing in a damp room such as the kitchen as this can make the results less accurate.  The testing kit should be put above floor level – usually on a table – so that it reports accurately.

To improve accuracy of the test, you should use the room as normal and avoid too much external air being brought in which might artificially lower the levels recorded.

Once the measurement is complete, you will usually need to send the testing kit to a validated laboratory. 

If you use an electronic testing kit, the results will be displayed in real time on the device.

The Results

When the analysis of the testing kit is complete, you will be advised of the level of Radon that is present.  If the level is above 4 on the scale you need to act.  At lower levels between 2 and 4, you may still want to make some improvements.

In some cases, the test results will be presented in the format of Picocuries per litre of air (PCi/L).  A level above 3.5 means that radon gas might be present.

You may want to run further tests if you are concerned – a good next step is to speak to a professional to have your home testing kit results validated.  Specialists will also be able to advise you on appropriate next steps.

Next Steps

If the levels of radon gas in your home are above safe limits, it is important to take steps to reduce them.

The most effective means of doing this is through improving ventilation.  Better airflow means less opportunity for the levels of radon concentrated in your indoor air to build up.

Positive Input Ventilation Systems (PIV) draw air in from outside the house, filter it, and then flush it through your rooms before extracting it.  These systems can be professionally installed and use little electricity – less than a low energy light bulb.

To find out more about radon testing or ventilation systems that can help reduce your exposure, please contact our team today to book a free no-obligation survey.