FAQs: Acceptable Radon Levels
What constitutes an acceptable or safe radon level? According to the EPA, the maximum “acceptable” level of radon is 4.0 pCi/L, but even that level is not “safe”, per se. The EPA strongly recommends you consider radon mitigation between levels 2.0 and 4.0. For perspective, the average outdoor air level of radon is 0.4 pCi/L. Professional mitigation is the only reliable way to reduce elevated radon readings.
Frequently asked questions about radon levels:
- Is there a “safe” level of radon gas?
- Am I still at risk if my radon levels are below 4.0 pCi/L?
- If I don’t go in the basement, am I safe from radon?
- Can radon levels in our home change without intervention?
- Do I need to test for radon if my neighbor’s house passed?
- How do I reduce radon levels in my home?
Is there a “safe” level of radon gas?
Radon is radioactive and hazardous to your health. When inhaled into the lungs, it can damage DNA and cause lung cancer. The “safe” level of radon exposure is no radon at all. The EPA’s recommended level for radon mitigation is 4.0 pCi/L or above.
It’s estimated that 1 in 15 American homes have an elevated level of radon gas. While many newer homes are built with radon-resistant features or passive radon systems, these are not always enough to sufficiently reduce radon levels in your home.
Am I still at risk if my radon levels are below 4.0 pCi/L?
While any amount of exposure to radon gas constitutes a health risk, your risks of contracting lung cancer decrease significantly as radon levels decrease. For example, a person living in a house with a radon level of 4.0 pCi/L or lower has an approximately 7 in 1000 chance of getting sick. On the other hand, a person living in a house with a radon level of 20 pCi/L or higher has a 36 in 1000 chance of contracting lung cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) established an action level of 2.7 pCi/L based upon a three-year worldwide study by more than 30 prominent scientists.
A radon level of 4.0 pCi/L is still a health risk, which is why it’s important to have professional radon mitigation. Professional mitigation can often reduce radon levels to 0.4 pCi/L. The thing to keep in mind is that the risk for lung cancer from radon is random and defies statistics. People may be exposed for a lifetime at very high levels without getting lung cancer, while others may be exposed at moderate levels for a year or two and contract lung cancer. Radon is one of the few environmental hazards we have some control over.
If I don’t go in the basement, am I safe from radon?
It’s a common radon myth that radon gathers in basements and you can avoid exposure by simply not going in the basement. In reality, when your furnace or air conditioning run at any time during the year, it will circulate that air — and any radon gas that comes with it — throughout the entire house, particularly if there is a return duct in the basement. You can’t avoid a radon problem by staying upstairs. The rule of thumb: radon levels are reduced by approximately 50% per floor going up through the house, except when there is a return duct in the basement.
Can radon levels in our home change without intervention?
Radon levels are always changing. Seasonality plays a role. Winter tends to be worse than summer when heat rising in the house creates a stronger vacuum on the soil. Radon levels spike during heavy wind, rain, or snowy weather.
Do I need to test for radon if my neighbor’s house passed?
Among the common radon myths is the idea that radon is isolated to certain neighborhoods, or that the results of a radon test in one house are accurate to the next house over. Some think that only certain types of homes are susceptible to radon.
These are misconceptions. Radon is a geological issue. It has little to do with the age of the house, or whether there is a basement. Any structure in touch with the ground has a potential radon problem, including crawlspaces.
As radon maps show, some areas of the country tend to have higher levels of radon than others. However, don’t be lulled into a false sense of security that your home is safe because you live in a “low radon” area. High radon levels can be found anywhere and may vary significantly from one home to the next. Because radon can’t be detected by human senses, the only way to be sure is to conduct a radon test.
How do I reduce radon levels in my home?
If you’ve tested your home and found higher-than-acceptable radon levels, your next step is to look at installing a radon mitigation system. Learn more about how professional radon mitigation works and what to expect from a high-quality radon repair contractor.
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