Radon is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that has been linked to lung cancer. It comes from the ground and can enter homes through cracks in the foundation or walls. Usually, it stays trapped inside and over time can cause high levels of exposure. You can test for radon yourself or hire a professional to do so. The EPA website lists approved contractors in each state. The tests are inexpensive and easy to perform.
The most common is a passive test, which contains a canister of activated charcoal that collects radon gas for a period of two to seven days, and then sends it to a laboratory for measurement. Other devices can gather data for up to three months. The test should not be disturbed for the duration of the collection period. It should also be kept away from drafts, fireplaces, HVAC equipment, and any other sources of air movement that might affect the results. The EPA recommends testing a room in the lowest livable level of the house, or the basement if you have one. Avoid areas like the kitchen, laundry room, and closets where occupants spend less than 8 hours a week.
You can purchase a do-it-yourself test for radon in your home or office centers, hardware stores, and online retailers, or you can contact a certified tester to conduct the test in your home or office. It is important to follow the instructions carefully to ensure the best results. Make sure the test is placed in a livable area such as a bedroom, living room, family room, or den, but not an enclosed garage. Also, do not place the test in a closet, utility room, or crawl space. It should also be at least three feet from exterior walls and away from windows, doors, or fireplaces.
Long-term radon tests, which measure levels over 90 days or more, can be used to determine an average annual exposure and are typically conducted as a follow-up to short-term tests. They use different methods of measurement, and are generally more accurate than short-term tests because they account for weather conditions, ventilation patterns, and how the home is occupied and used over time.
While there are no routine medical tests that can tell you whether you’ve breathed in too much radon, your doctor can check for symptoms, including shortness of breath and pain or tightness in the chest. It’s also important to monitor for any changes in your respiratory system, such as persistent coughing or hoarseness.
If your test results show that your radon level is above 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/L), you should take action to reduce the radon levels in your home or office. A certified professional can seal cracks in your home and install a ventilation system to keep radon gases from getting trapped indoors. They can also repair any water supply systems that might contribute to elevated radon levels. For more information about radon testing, visit the EPA’s website. You can also contact a certified contractor to schedule an evaluation of your home or office.