Radon Testing & Central New York

Radon is a radioactive gas found everywhere, but in high levels across much of Central New York. It is a naturally occurring gas that results from the breakdown of uranium in the earth that enters your home through the foundation.

You can not see, smell or taste radon gas. Radon is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer in the United States. Approximately 50% of homes in Onondaga county that have been tested had unsafe radon levels per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.

us radon map
New York State Radon Map
Onondaga County Radon Map

Within Onondaga county radon levels differ from town to town. Camillus and Manlius tend to have high radon levels while towns like Clay and Cicero do not. However the only way to know if radon affects a specific home is to perform a radon test at that home.

Even if you don’t have interest in a radon test during a real estate purchase it will make sense to have done. This is because when you sell your house there is a good chance the next buyer will care about radon. If your home fails you will likely be on the hook to pay for radon reduction to sell your house. However if you test as the buyer you can have the seller pay.

The EPA recommends radon tests be performed every 2 years -even if a mitigation system is present- because the radon levels in any home may vary depending on many factors including: time of day, temperature, season, barometric pressure, ventilation, construction changes to the building etc.

Radon testing requires leaving a small, silent measurement device inside a home, usually for 48 hours.

HOW RADON ENTERS A HOME

Radon gas moves up through earth to the air above and into a home through cracks and other holes in the foundation like sump pits and floor drains. However, because it is a gas, it does not need visible openings to enter a home. The home then traps radon inside where it can build up, especially in the winter when it cannot escape through open windows and doors.

RADON MYTHS & FACTS

MYTH: A neighbor’s test result is a good indication of my homes radon level.
FACT: Radon levels can vary greatly from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test.

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: Everyone should test their water for radon.
FACT: It is important to first test the air in the home for radon.  If high radon levels are found AND the home has a private well, test the water.

MYTH: It’s difficult to sell homes where radon problems have been discovered.
FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed,this has not been a problem in CNY.

MYTH: Lowering radon levels is hard to do
FACT: Radon levels can be reduced in most homes to 2 pCi/L or below, the EPA target level.

THE HEALTH IMPACT & HISTORY OF RADON

radon exposure

The impact of radon as a health problem has been understood for many years, even if its seriousness hasn’t fully broken through the national consciousness. Here’s a brief timeline.

  • 1950’s  – Radon and lung cancer are linked for the first time through radon exposed miners
  • 1979  – World Health Organization (WHO) sounds the alarm on residential radon exposure
  • 1988 – Radon is classified as a Class A carcinogen by the medical community
  • 2003 – EPA revises its radon assessment risk to the current standards
  • 2005 – The U.S. Surgeon General issues a national health advisory about the dangers of residential radon exposure and incidentally establishes the standard to test when buying a home

Leading to approximately 21,000 deaths a year,  lung cancer from radon exposure is the 2nd leading cause of lung cancer and the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.

Per the American Cancer Society, if you think you might have been exposed to high levels of radon over long periods of time, talk with your doctor about whether you should get regular health checkups and tests to look for possible signs of lung cancer. Be aware of possible symptoms of lung cancer, such as shortness of breath, a new or worsening cough, pain or tightness in the chest, hoarseness, or trouble swallowing, and tell your doctor if you start to have any of these symptoms.

It’s important to know radon exposure does not guarantee lung cancer, only an increased risk to lung cancer. Just in the same way that a person can smoke cigarettes for their entire life and never develop lung cancer, but individuals that smoke are at a higher risk to develop lung cancer and many do.

RADON MITIGATION – How to Reduce Radon in Your Home

Once the results of a radon test come back there are one of three recommendation groups the results fall into. The following are the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommendations:

Radon level 0-1.9 pCi/L: No level of radon is safe, but reducing levels of radon below 2 pCi/L is difficult.

Radon Level 2.0-3.9 pCi/L: Consider fixing the radon level.

Radon Level 4.0+ pCi/L: A qualified radon mitigation contractor should take corrective action to reduce the homes indoor radon levels.

For the purposes of a real estate transaction 4.0+ pCi/L is the standard at which the seller will take action, however a radon result of 3.8 pCi/L deserves serious consideration for mitigation after purchasing the home.

radon mitigation system

There are several methods to reduce radon concentration in a home.

The most common involves drilling a hole through the foundation slab and inserting white PVC pipe into the hole that is connected to an exhaust fan system that runs to the exterior of the home and terminates above the roof. The fan draws the air and radon from below the slab and ejects it above the roof before it can enter the home. An added benefit of this system is it tends to reduce humidity levels in the home as well.

This method is very effective at reducing radon levels and often the radon concentration can be lowered below 1.0 pCi/L. The cost of radon mitigation typically averages around $1500 but will depend on how difficult it is to reduce the radon concentration.

Learn More About Radon

At Brightside Home Inspections we offer radon testing services. You can see pricing here. We do not offer radon mitigation (radon removal), here is a list of local state certified radon mitigation contractors.