Radon Testing

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for the presence of radon. Radon is an odorless, colorless, tasteless, invisible, naturally occurring soil gas that comes from the breakdown of radioactive uranium in the soil and rocks beneath our houses. Radon is a carcinogenic gas that is hazardous to inhale.

Build-up of radon in homes is a health concern and many lung cancer cases are attributed to radon exposure each year. About 12% of lung cancers and more than 20,000 Americans die of radon-related lung cancer each year. The Surgeon General of the United States has issued a Health Advisory warning Americans about the health risk from exposure to radon in indoor air. Dr. Carmona, the Nation's Chief Physician urged Americans to test their homes to find out how much radon they might be breathing. He also stressed the need to remedy the problem as soon as possible.

You cannot see, smell, or taste radon. But it still may be a problem in your home. When you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General of the United States has warned that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States today. If you smoke and your home has high radon levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
The EPA has determined that houses with radon levels above 4 picocuries of radon per liter of air (4.0 pCi/L) represent a significant health hazard to the occupants. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) has determined that Pennsylvania has about twice as many houses with radon levels above 4.0 pCi/L as any other state.

The presence of radon in a home cannot be detected by human senses. The only way to know if your home contains radon gas is to test for its presence. In New Jersey, radon testing for real estate transactions can only be performed by a NJDEP certified radon tester, or by the person who owns or occupies the building.

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Radon Myths and Facts

  • MYTH: Scientists are not sure that radon really is a problem.ยท

  • FACT: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, all the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association) agree with estimates that radon causes thousands of preventable lung cancer deaths every year. This is especially true among smokers, since the risk to smokers is much greater than to non-smokers.

  • MYTH: Radon testing is difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

  • FACT: Radon testing is easy and inexpensive.

  • MYTH: Radon testing devices are not reliable and are difficult to find.

  • FACT: Reliable testing devices are available from qualified radon testers and companies.

  • MYTH: Homes with radon problems can't be fixed.

  • FACT: There are simple solutions to radon problems in homes. Hundreds of thousands of homeowners have already fixed radon problems in their homes. Radon levels can be readily lowered for $800 to $2,500 (with an average cost of $1,200).

  • MYTH: Radon affects only certain kinds of homes.

  • FACT: House construction can affect radon levels. However, radon can be a problem in homes of all types: old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements, and homes without basements. Local geology, construction materials, and how the home was built are among the factors that can affect radon levels in homes.

  • MYTH: Radon is only a problem in certain parts of the country.

  • FACT: High radon levels have been found in every state. Radon problems do vary from area to area, but the only way to know your radon level is to test.

  • MYTH: A neighbor's test result is a good indication of whether your home has a problem.

  • FACT: It's not. Radon levels can vary greatly from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.

  • MYTH: It's difficult to sell homes where radon problems have been discovered.

  • FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked or frustrated. The added protection is some times a good selling point.

  • MYTH: I've lived in my home for so long, it doesn't make sense to take action now.

  • FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you've lived with a radon problem for a long time.

  • MYTH: Short-term tests can't be used for making a decision about whether to fix your home.

  • FACT: A short-term test, followed by a second short-term test* can be used to decide whether to fix your home. However, the closer the average of your two short-term tests is to 4.0 pCi/L, the less certain you can be about whether your year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4.0 pCi/L still pose some risk. Radon levels can be reduced in most homes to 2.0 pCi/L or below.