04 Aug 5 Questions About Radon in Northern Virginia
An invisible, odorless threat to health and life, Radon may be a problem in your home. According to the EPA, all Northern Virginia counties have been found to be medium to high risk areas, meaning there is a strong likelihood of Radon infiltration. While Virginia requires that Radon testing and mitigation professionals receive specialized certification, there is no current mitigation requirement, so it is up to each homeowner to regularly test for Radon and install mitigation systems if needed. Here are the answers to some key questions about this serious issue.
What is Radon?
Radon is a naturally occurring, radioactive gas that is produced by the breakdown of Uranium in soil and water. Once Radon gets into the air of a structure, it is extremely dangerous. Radon has been found to be the second leading cause lung cancer after cigarettes, and thousands of people die from Radon related health issues every year, including hundreds of cases in Virginia. Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the United States is estimated to have elevated Radon levels.
How Does Radon Get Into A Home?
The majority of Radon infiltration occurs from the gas produced by uranium in the soil. In some instances, well water and building materials can be a risk as well. Radon penetrates the home through a variety of access points, including:
|· Cracks in solid floors|
· Construction joints
· Cracks in walls
|· Gaps in suspended floors|
· Gaps around service pipes
· Cavities inside walls
Age, style and configuration of a home do not affect the risk of Radon entering the air, so a basement or a crawl space both allow access. In fact, the gas can penetrate concrete slabs, even if they are sealed. The only way to reduce Radon accumulation in a house is through mitigation.
How is Radon Detected?
Radon can only be detected by conducting tests on the air in a home. There are two kinds of tests – short term and long term. Since the levels of Radon fluctuate throughout the year according to the temperature and other factors, a short-term test may not identify a Radon problem. Do-it-yourself kits are available for Radon testing, but if you are buying or selling a home, you should hire a certified professional to perform the test.
When Should Radon Testing Be Performed?
According to the EPA, homes in high risk areas without active mitigation systems in place should conduct Radon testing every two years, and even with a mitigation system in place, testing should be done regularly to assure that the system is performing. If planning a home renovation that includes converting an unfinished basement, it is critical to conduct a Radon test both before and after the project. Finally, if buying or selling a home, Radon testing will be a concern. Sellers should consider having a recent test to furnish to buyers.
When is Mitigation Necessary?
Radon is measured in picocuries per liter of air, or “pCi/L” with a level of 4.0 or above considered dangerous and requiring immediate mitigation. Homes with levels between 2.5-4.0 pCi/L should consider mitigation. While not required, most new construction contains passive mitigation systems. However, testing may reveal that an active mitigation system such as a venting fan is necessary for health and safety. Virginia requires that contractors be certified in Radon mitigation to perform this work.
Biller & Associates is certified by the National Radon Proficiency Program as a Residential Radon Measurement Provider. Contact us today to discuss testing your home.