Radon gas is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that is colorless, odorless, and tasteless. It forms from the natural radioactive decay of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Radon gas seeps into homes through cracks in the foundation, floors, walls, and around pipes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking and is responsible for over 20,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the United States.
Exposure to radon for prolonged periods can be dangerous to human health. The EPA and the Surgeon General recommend that all homes should be tested for radon. Home buyers should especially be concerned about radon testing as part of the home inspection St. Louis process.
Why is Radon a Concern in St. Louis?
Radon is more likely to accumulate to dangerous levels in homes that are built on soil with natural uranium deposits. According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, over 50% of homes tested in St. Louis City and County have radon levels above the EPA recommended level.
The EPA recommends fixing homes with radon levels at or above 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter). The average indoor radon level in St. Louis homes is over 6 pCi/L, which is 50% higher than the national average. Therefore, radon testing and mitigation should be a major concern for St. Louis area home buyers.
When Should Radon Testing be Done?
The best time for radon testing is during real estate transactions when homes are either for sale or going through a home inspection. The radon test results can inform buyers about any potential hazards and allow them to negotiate with the seller about fixing any issues.
Here are some guidelines from the EPA on when to test for radon:
- Test when purchasing a new home or moving into a home that has not been tested before.
- Retest your home every 2 years or if any structural changes have been made like renovations or additions.
- Test in both high and low areas of the home like basements and upper floors.
- Follow proper testing conditions like closing windows, doors, fireplaces, fans, etc.
- Choose a qualified radon tester and ensure proper testing protocols are followed.
The ideal time to test is during home inspections so any radon issues can be identified and fixed before occupancy.
How is Radon Testing Done?
There are a few ways radon can be tested in a home:
- Short-term testing using charcoal canisters or alpha track detectors placed in the home for 2-7 days. This is the quickest way to get test results.
- Long-term testing using charcoal canisters, alpha track, or electronic detectors placed in the home for more than 90 days. This provides a better understanding of radon changes over time.
- Active testing using continuous radon monitors that constantly sample and record radon levels. This is the most accurate way to determine radon.
- Professional testing is done by certified inspectors. They will place the detectors, retrieve them after the testing period, and analyze the results. This ensures proper testing protocols.
Multiple tests should be done in different areas of the home at the same time. Care should be taken to not disturb the test area by opening windows, doors, or running fans. All testing devices should be placed away from drafts and high heat/humidity. Testing kits can be purchased from hardware stores, but professional certified inspectors provide more accurate results.
Understanding Radon Test Results
The radon test report will provide the results in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). This indicates the level of radioactive radon decay measured in the home’s air.
Here is how to interpret radon test results:
- 2 pCi/L or below – Acceptable radon level
- 2-4 pCi/L – Take steps to reduce radon levels
- 4 pCi/L or above – Fix the home to reduce radon exposure
The higher the pCi/L, the greater the health risk from radon exposure. The EPA recommends fixing homes with radon levels at or above 4 pCi/L.
Factors Impacting Radon Test Results
Some factors can influence radon testing results. Home buyers should be aware of these when reviewing radon tests:
- Seasonal variations – Radon levels are higher in winter when homes are closed up.
- Weather conditions – Levels are higher during colder months.
- Home renovations – Cracking foundations or disturbed soil during renovations can increase radon entry.
- Testing protocols – Not following proper testing conditions can skew results.
- Testing devices – Different devices have varying accuracy. Certified testers use the most accurate protocols.
- Location of detectors – Radon levels vary in different areas of the home. Multiple detectors should be used.
Interpreting radon results while accounting for these factors will provide a more complete picture of the home’s radon situation.
Reducing Radon Levels in the Home
The good news is that elevated radon levels can be fixed. Here are some common ways to reduce radon in homes:
- Sealing cracks and openings in the foundation using caulk, sealants, or foam.
- Installing a radon mitigation system with a vent pipe and fan that draws radon from beneath the home and vents it outside before it enters the home.
- Increasing under-floor ventilation to dilute radon concentration.
- Installing a radon sump system beneath concrete floor slabs along with vent pipe and fan.
- Fixing any structural, construction, or soil issues that allow radon seepage.
Radon mitigation systems are the most effective way to reduce radon. Fans maintain constant suction that prevents radon accumulation. The average cost to install a radon mitigation system ranges from $800 to $2,500, depending on the home’s size and foundation type. This is a worthwhile investment to protect your family’s health.
Professional radon reduction contractors should handle any mitigation or reduction projects. This will ensure the work is done properly and reduce radon to acceptable levels. Make sure contractors are licensed and certified.
The Importance of Radon Testing for St. Louis Home Inspections
Radon testing is a key part of the home inspection process for St. Louis home buyers. Elevated radon levels are common across St. Louis due to the soil composition in this region. Radon test results should be reviewed carefully by potential home buyers during the inspection period.
Any issues with high radon levels in the home can be addressed by requesting the seller to mitigate them before closing or negotiating a price reduction to cover future mitigation costs. Radon testing provides valuable information to ensure your family’s safety when purchasing a new home.
Consult with a qualified St. Louis home inspector to discuss the right radon testing protocols for your home purchase. Address any problem areas or concerns about radon test results before finalizing the sale. Take steps to avoid long-term radon exposure risks to protect the health of your family.