Do you need to find radon test kits?
Do-it-yourself test kits are available right here!
EPA has developed this guide to help home buyers and sellers address eight key questions about radon:
You cannot see radon. And you cannot smell it or taste it. But it may be a problem in your home. That is because when you breathe air containing radon, you increase your risk of getting lung cancer. In fact, the Surgeon General 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 ration levels, your risk of lung cancer is especially high.
You should test for radon. Testing is the only way to find out your home's radon levels. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all homes below the third floor for radon.
You can fix a radon problem.
If you find that you have high radon levels, there are ways to fix a
radon problem. Even very high levels can be reduced to acceptable levels.
If you are selling a Home... EPA recommends that you test your home before putting it on the market and, if necessary, lower your radon levels. Save the test results and all information you have about steps that were taken to fix any problems. This could be a positive selling point.
If you are buying a Home...
EPA recommends that you obtain the indoor radon level in a home you are
considering buying. Ask the seller for radon test results. If the home
has a radon reduction system, ask the seller for information about the
If the home has not yet been tested, this Guide makes recommendations
about how to test now.
The radon testing guidelines in the "Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to
Radon" have been developed specifically to deal with the time sensitive
nature of home purchases and sales and the potential for radon device
The guidelines in the "Home Buyer's Guide" are somewhat different from the guidelines in other EPA publications which provide radon testing and reduction information for non-real estate situations. The "Home Buyer's Guide" recommends three short-term testing options when long-term testing is not possible. The "Home Buyer's Guide" also recommends testing a home in the lowest level of the home which is currently suitable for occupancy. This is because a buyer may choose to live in a lower area of the home than that used by the seller.
Radon is a radioactive gas that has been found in homes all over the U.S.
It comes from the natural breakdown of uranium in soil, rock and water
and gets into the air you breathe. Radon typically moves up through the
ground to the air above and into your home through cracks and other holes
in the foundation. Your home can trap radon inside. Sometimes radon
enters the home through well water.
Any home can have a radon problem. This means new and old homes,
well-sealed and drafty homes, and homes with or without basements. In
fact, you and your family are most likely to get your greatest radiation
exposure at home. That is where you spend most of your time.
Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated
radon levels. Elevated levels of radon gas have been found in homes in
your state. Contact your state radon office for information about radon
in your area.
EPA And The Surgeon General Recommend That You Test Your
Home. Testing is the only way to know if you and your family are
at risk from radon. EPA and the Surgeon General recommend testing all
homes below the third floor for radon.
If you are thinking of selling your home and you have already tested your
home for radon, provide your test results to the buyer. Review the
testing Checklist in this guide to make sure that the test was done
No matter what kind of test you took, a potential buyer may ask for a new test especially if:
If the home has not yet been tested for radon...
Have a test taken as soon as possible. If you can, test your home before
putting it on the market because this may save time during real estate
transactions. You should test in the lowest level of the home which is
suitable for occupancy and finished. This means testing in the lowest
level that you currently live in or a lower level not currently used, but
which a buyer could use for living space without renovations. The result
of the radon test is important information about your home's radon level
that potential buyers may want to know.
You can test your own home
For low-cost do-it-yourself
radon test kits click here
or hire an EPA listed or state certified radon tester. Call your state radon office for a list of these professional radon testers. If you test your own home, carefully follow the Checklist in this guide.
If you are thinking of buying a home, you may either decide to accept the
test results from the seller, ask the seller to do another test, or you
may ask for a new test to be conducted by an EPA listed or state
certified radon tester.
If you decide to accept the seller's test, make sure that the seller (or whoever took the test) followed the testing Checklist and that he or she can confirm that all the items were followed. If you plan to use the seller's test, find out as soon as possible from the seller:
If the home has not yet been tested for radon...
Make sure that a radon test is done as soon as possible. You should
consider including provisions in the contract specifying who should
conduct the test, what type of test to do, when to do the test, and how
the seller and the buyer will share the test results, test costs and, if
necessary, when radon reduction measures should be taken and who should
pay for them.
Make sure that the test is done in the lowest level of the home suitable
for occupancy. This means the lowest level that you are going to use as
living space which is finished or does not require renovations prior to
use. A state or local radon official or an EPA listed or state certified
radon tester can help you make some of these decisions.
If you decide to finish or renovate an unfinished area of the home in the future, ration tests should be taken before and after the area is finished. Radon reduction costs could be incurred if high levels are found in that area. Generally, it is less expensive to install a radon reduction system before or during renovations rather than afterwards.
Builders can incorporate radon resistant features into the homes they
build. Some states, counties and local jurisdictions may adopt radon
resistant construction features in their building codes, which builders
must then follow. Radon resistant construction standards can be applied
depending on the radon potential in a particular area. Many builders already
use radon resistant building features.
New home buyers should ask if radon resistant construction techniques
have been built into the new home they are considering for purchase.
Buyers should also ask whether information about radon is available. For
custom-built homes, the buyer should discuss radon resistant features
with the builder including the cost.
Occupants of newly constructed should have their homes tested for radon. A long-term test will provide a reading that more representative of the home's average radon level. However, short-term may be used determine if elevated radon levels exist.
Since you cannot see or smell radon, special equipment is needed to
detect it. You can buy radon devices in retail stores when you want to
test your own home, send away for radon devices from laboratories that
offer mail order services, or you can hire an EPA listed or state
certified radon tester who will test using radon devices that are
appropriate for the situation.
Preventing or Detecting Test Interference
There is a potential for test interference in real estate transactions. There are a number of ways to prevent or detect test interference such as:
Some of the most common radon testing devices are listed below. Because new testing devices may be listed by EPA or your state, you may want to check with your state radon office before you test to get the most up-to-date information.
Passive radon testing devices do not need power to function. They include radon detectors such as charcoal canisters, alpha-track detectors, and charcoal liquid scintillation devices that are available in hardware stores, drug stores, other stores, and by mail, and electret ion chamber detectors generally only available through laboratories. They are exposed to the air in the home for a specified period of time and then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Both short-term and long-term passive devices are generally inexpensive. Some of these devices may have features that offer more resistance to test interference or disturbance than other passive devices. Professional radon testers may use any of these devices to measure the home's radon level.
Active radon testing devices require power to function. Active radon detectors such as continuous ration monitors and continuous working level monitors require operation by trained testers. They work by continuously measuring and recording the amount of radon or its decay products in the air of the home. Many of these devices provide a report of this information which can reveal any unusual or abnormal swings in the radon level during the test period. A professional tester can explain this report to you. In addition, some of these devices are specifically designed to deter and detect test interference. Currently, some of the technically advanced active devices offer the most extensive device interference features. Although these tests may cost more, they may ensure a more reliable result.
General Information for All Devices:
A state or local radon official can explain the differences between
devices and recommend the ones which are most appropriate for your needs
and expected testing conditions. In addition, EPA's Radon Measurement
Protocols include technical information about the differences between
Make sure the radon device is listed by EPA's testing program or is
state-certified. The device may display the phrase "Meets EPA
Requirements" or "EPA listed." Your state radon office or a radon tester
can tell you more about radon testing devices.
Certain precautions should be followed to avoid interference during the
test period. Refer to the Checklist in this guide for more information about
how to get a reliable test.
In some areas, companies may offer different types of radon service agreements. Some agreements let you pay a one-time fee that covers both testing, and if needed, radon reduction. Contact your state radon office to find out if these are available in your state.
Radon Test Device Placement
The testing device(s) should be placed in the lowest level of the home suitable for occupancy. This means testing in the lowest level currently lived in or a lower level not currently used, such as a basement, which a buyer could use for living space without renovations. The test should be in a room to be used regularly (like a living room, playroom, den or bedroom) but not a kitchen, bathroom or laundry room.
WHETHER YOU TEST FOR RADON YOURSELF OR HIRE AN EPA LISTED OR STATE CERTIFIED TESTER, ALL RADON TESTS SHOULD BE TAKEN FOR A MINIMUM OF 48 HOURS. A LONGER PERIOD OF TESTING TIME IS REQUIRED FOR SOME DEVICES.
If you are testing in a real estate transaction and you need results quickly, any of the following three ways to conduct Short-Term Tests are acceptable for determining whether the home should be fixed. Any real estate test for radon should include steps to prevent or detect device interference.
SHORT-TERM TESTING OPTIONS WHAT TO DO NEXT Passive:WHEN CHOOSING A SHORT-TERM TESTING OPTION
For info on do-it-yourself test kits...Take an initial short-term test for Fix the home if the at least 48 hours. After the first average of two tests test has been completed, take a is 4 pCi/L or more. follow-up short-term test for at least 48 hours. or Take two short-term tests at the Fix the home if the same time in the same location for average of two tests at least 48 hours. is 4 pCi/L or more. Active: Test the home with a continuous Fix the home if the monitor for at least 48 hours. average radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.
There are trade-offs among the short-term test options. One test followed by another test (sequential) would most likely give a better representation of the seasonal average. Two tests taken at the same time (simultaneous) would improve the precision of the radon test. Both active and passive devices may have features which help to prevent test interference. Your state radon office can help you decide which option is the best for you.
When you are taking a short-term test, close your windows and outside
doors and keep them closed as much as possible during the test, except
for normal entry and exit. If you are taking a short-term test lasting
less than 4 days, be sure to close your windows and outside doors at
least 12 hours before beginning the test, too. You should not conduct
short-term tests lasting less than 4 days during severe storms or periods
of high winds.
Place the test device at least 20 inches above the floor in a location where it will not be disturbed and where it will be away from drafts, high heat, high humidity, and exterior walls. Leave the test kit in place for as long as the test instructions say. Once you have finished the test, reseal the package and send it immediately to the lab specified on the package for analysis. You should receive your test results within a few weeks. If you need results quickly, you should find out how long results will take and, if necessary, request expedited service.
The Radon Information Center---RADON.COM
EPA'S TESTING CHECKLIST
Follow this Checklist carefully so that you get the most accurate radon
Radon testing is not a complicated process, but must be done properly.
Otherwise, the test results may not be accurate and more testing may have
to be done. Disturbing or interfering with the test device or
closed-house conditions will invalidate the test results.
The seller, or an EPA listed or state certified tester, should be able to confirm that all the items in this Checklist have been followed. If the tester cannot confirm this, another test should be taken.
Before the radon testing:
During the radon test:
In many cases, home buyers and sellers may decide to have the radon test done by a professional radon tester. Make sure that the company you hire is listed in EPA's Radon Measurement Proficiency (RMP) Program or your state's certification program, if it has one.
EPA's Radon Measurement Proficiency (RMP) program is designed to help you get reliable radon tests. RMP program participants are required to show their ability to make accurate tests and follow quality assurance and EPA test guidelines. EPA issues RMP reports for your state. These reports list testing companies and individuals in your area qualified to follow EPA's residential radon testing requirements. Make sure you ask to see the professional radon tester's photo I.D. card.
The average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L, and about 0.4 pCi/L of radon is normally found in the outside air. The U. S. Congress has set a long-term goal that indoor radon levels be no more than outdoor levels. While this goal is not yet technologically achievable for all homes, the radon levels in some homes today can be reduced to 2 pCi/L or below.
WHAT WILL A PROFESSIONAL RADON TESTER DO?
An EPA listed or state certified radon tester knows the proper conditions, test devices, and guidelines to get a reliable radon test. A professional radon tester can also:
RADON TEST RESULTS MEASURED IN TWO DIFFERENT UNITS
Your radon test results may be reported in either picocuries per Liter of Air (pCi/L) or Working Levels (WL).
If your test result is in pCi/L, EPA recommends you fix the home if your radon level is 4 pCi/L or higher. If the test result is in WL, EPA recommends you fix the home if the working level is 0.02 WL or higher.
Sometimes short-term tests are less definitive about whether the home is at or above 4 pCi/L. This can happen when your results are close to 4 pCi/L. For example, if the average of the two short-term tests is 4.1 pCi/L, there is about a 50% chance that the year-round average is somewhat below 4 pCi/L. However, EPA believes that any radon exposure carries some risk; no level of radon is safe. Even radon levels below 4 pCi/L pose some risk, and you can reduce your risk of lung cancer by lowering your radon level.
Like other environmental pollutants, there is some uncertainty about the magnitude of radon health risks. However, we know more about radon risks than risks from most other cancer-causing substances. This is because estimates of radon risks are based on studies in humans (underground miners). Additional studies on more typical populations are under way.
Your radon measurement will give you an idea of your risk of getting lung cancer from radon. Your chances of getting lung cancer from radon depend mostly on:
The Radon Information Center---RADON.COM
RADON RISK IF YOU SMOKE
Radon If 1,000 people The risk of cancer WHAT TO Level were exposed to compares to.** Stop this level over Smoking a lifetime... and... 20 pCi/L About 135 people <-100 times the risk Fix your could get lung of drowning home cancer 10 pCi/L About 71 people <-100 times the risk Fix your could get lung of dying in a home home cancer 8 pCi/L About 57 people Fix your could get lung home cancer 4 pCi/L About 29 people <-100 times the risk Fix your could get lung of dying in an home cancer airplane crash Consider fixing between 2 and 4 pCi/L 2 pCi/L About 15 people <-2 times the risk could get lung of dying in a car cancer crash 1.3 pCi/L About 9 people (Average indoor (Reducing could get lung ration level) radon cancer levels below 2 pCi/L is difficult) 0.4 pCi/L About 3 people (Average outdoor could get lung radon level) cancerNote: If you are a former smoker, your risk may be lower.
Radon If 1,000 people The risk of cancer WHAT TO Level were exposed to compares to.** Stop this level over Smoking a lifetime... and... 20 pCi/L About 8 people <-The risk of being Fix your could get lung killed in a violent home cancer crime 10 pCi/L About 4 people Fix your could get lung home cancer 8 pCi/L About 3 people <-10 times the risk Fix your could get lung of dying in an home cancer airplane crash 4 pCi/L About 2 people <-The risk of drowning Fix your could get lung home cancer Consider fixing between 2 and 4 pCi/L 2 pCi/L About 1 person <-The risk of dying could get lung in a home fire cancer 1.3 pCi/L Less than 1 person (Average indoor (Reducing could get lung ration level) radon cancer levels below 2 pCi/L is difficult) 0.4 pCi/L Less than 1 person (Average outdoor could get lung radon level) cancerNote: If you are a former smoker, your risk may be higher.
EPA recommends that you take action to reduce your home's indoor radon levels if your radon test result is 4 pCi/L or higher.
It is preferable to correct a radon problem before placing your home on the market because then you have more time to address a radon problem. If elevated levels are found during the real estate transaction, the buyer and seller should discuss the timing and costs of the radon reduction, as with any other aspect of the home purchase and sale.
The cost of making repairs to reduce radon depends on how your home was built and other factors. Most homes can be fixed for about the same cost as other common home repairs, like painting or having a new hot water heater installed. The average cost for a contractor to lower radon levels in a home is about $1,200, although this can range from $500 to about $2,500.
How To Lower The Radon Level In Your Home A variety of methods can be used to reduce radon in homes. Sealing cracks and other openings in the foundation is a basic part of most approaches to radon reduction. EPA does not recommend the use of sealing alone to reduce radon because, by itself, sealing has not been shown to lower radon levels significantly or consistently. In most cases, systems with pipes and fans are used to reduce radon. Such systems are called "subslab depressurization," and do not require major changes to your home. These systems prevent radon gas from entering the home from below the concrete floor and the foundation. Similar systems can also be installed in homes with crawl spaces. Radon reduction contractors may use other methods that may also work in your home. The right system depends on the design of your home and other factors. As with any other household appliance, there would be costs associated with the operation of the radon reduction system.
Ways to reduce radon are discussed in EPA's "Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction." Call your state radon office to get a copy.
You should also test your home again after it is fixed to be sure that radon levels have been reduced. If your living patterns change and you begin occupying a lower level of your home (such as a basement) you should retest your home on that level. In addition, it is a good idea to retest your home sometime in the future to be sure radon levels remain low.
RADON AND HOME RENOVATIONS If you are planning any major renovations, such as converting an unfinished basement area into living space, it is especially important to test the area for radon before you begin the renovation. If your test results indicate a radon problem, radon resistant techniques can be inexpensively included as part of the renovation. Because major renovations can change the level of radon in any home, always test again after work is completed.
WHAT SERVICES DO RADON REDUCTION CONTRACTORS PROVIDE?
Contractors who participate in EPA's RCP program are qualified to:
The Radon Information Center---RADON.COM
Selecting A Radon Reduction Contractor
You should use a radon reduction contractor who is listed by EPA's Radon Contractor Proficiency (RCP) Program. This Program tests the technical knowledge of contractors to ensure that hey can correct radon problems. RCP contractors must follow specific guidelines which make certain that their work meets minimum quality standards. RCP contractors carry photo I.D. cards and are listed in RCP Program reports.
Radon reduction contractors are required to take the RCP exam and then follow the RCP Mitigation Standards. These standards are available from your state radon office. The RCP radon reduction contractor is also required to review radon measurement results before beginning radon reduction work.
In addition, the RCP contractor must recommend that the home be tested again by an independent EPA listed or state certified radon tester after completing radon reduction work to confirm that elevated levels have been reduced.
RADON IN WATER
Compared to radon entering the home through soft, radon entering the home through water in most cases will be a small source of risk. Radon gas can enter the home through well water. It can be released into the air you breathe when water is used for showering and other household uses. Research suggests that swallowing water with high radon levels may pose risks, too, although risks from swallowing water containing radon are believed to be much lower than those from breathing air containing radon.
While radon in water is not a problem in homes served by most public water supplies, radon has been found in well water. If you have tested the air in your home and found a radon problem, and your water comes from a well, have the water tested. If you are on a public water supply and are concerned that radon may be entering your home through the water, call your public water supplier. The testing device and procedures used to find out the radon levels of your home's water supply are different from the device and procedures used to test your home's indoor air levels for radon.
Radon problems in water can be readly fixed. The most effective treatment is to remove radon from the water before it enters the home. This is called point-of-entry treatment. Treatment at your water tap is called point-of-use treatment. Point-of-use devices usually only treat a small portion of your water and are not effective in reducing radon risk in water.
Call your State radon office for a copy of the "Consumer's Guide to Radon Reduction" or call EPA's Drinking Water Hotline (1 800 426-4791) for more information on radon in water.
SHOULD YOUR RADON TESTER ALSO BE YOUR RADON REDUCTION CONTRACTOR?
Be aware that there is a potential conflict of interest if you use the same company to conduct both the test and the radon reduction of the home. If the same radon testing professional also offers to do radon reduction of the home, make sure that the testing is done according to the Testing Checklist.
EPA's Radon Proficiency Programs (RMP and RCP) work together to protect home buyers and sellers. Make sure you only hire professional testers and radon reduction contractors who are EPA qualified or state certified. Always ask to see the contractor's I.D. card.
You should also consider getting more than one cost estimate and asking for references from radon testing and radon reduction companies in your area.
Some states have additional certification requirements, and may require the homeowner to sign a waiver if one firm conducts both testing and radon reduction. Contact your state radon office for more information.
FACT: Although some scientists dispute the precise number of deaths due to radon, the major health organizations (like the Centers for Disease Control, 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 devices are not reliable and are difficult to find.
FACT: Radon testing can be conducted by professionally trained RMP listed or state certified radon tester.
Active radon devices can continuously gather and periodically record radon levels reveal any unusual swings in the radon level during the test.
Reliable testing devices are also available through the mail, in hardware stores and other retail outlets. Call your state radon office for a list of radon device companies that have met EPA requirements for reliability or are state certified.
MYTH: Radon testing is difficult and time-consuming.
FACT: Radon testing is easy. You can test your own home or you can hire an EPA listed or state certified radon tester. Either approach takes only a small amount of the homeowner's time or effort.
MYTH: Homes with radon problems cannot be fixed.
FACT: There are solutions to radon problems in homes. Thousands of home owners have already lowered elevated radon levels in their homes. Radon levels can be readily lowered for $500 to $2,500. Call your state radon office for a list of contractors that have met EPA requirements or are state certified.
MYTH: Radon only affects certain types of homes.
FACT: Radon can be a problem in all types of homes such as old homes, new homes, drafty homes, insulated homes, homes with basements and homes without basements. Construction materials and the way the home has been built may also affect radon levels.
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 the home's radon level is to test.
MYTH: A neighbor's test result is a indication of whether your home has a radon problem.
FACT: It is not. Radon levels vary from home to home. The only way to know if your home has a radon problem is to test it.
MYTH: Everyone should test his or her water for radon.
FACT: While radon gets into some homes through the water, it is important to first the air in the home for radon. If high radon levels are found and the home has a well, call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1 800-426. 4791, or your state radon office for more information.
MYTH: It is difficult to sell a home where radon problems have been discovered.
FACT: Where radon problems have been fixed, home sales have not been blocked. The added protection could be a good selling point.
MYTH: I have lived in my home for so long, it does not make sense to take action now.
FACT: You will reduce your risk of lung cancer when you reduce radon levels, even if you have lived with a radon problem for a long time.
MYTH: Short-term tests cannot be used for making a decision about whether to reduce the home's high radon levels.
FACT: Short-term tests may be used to decide whether to reduce the home's high radon levels. However, the closer the short-term testing result is to 4 pCi/L, the less certainty there is about whether the home's year-round average is above or below that level. Keep in mind that radon levels below 4 pCi/L still pose some risk and that radon levels can be reduced in some homes to 2 pCi/L or below.
For more info go to THE RADON INFORMATION CENTER
Ask your state radon office to send you these free guides:
Contact the EPA's Drinking Water Hotline (1 800 426-4791) for information on radon in water.
SURGEON GENERAL HEALTH ADVISORY
"Indoor radon gas is a national health problem. Radon causes thousands of deaths each year. Millions of homes have elevated radon levels. Homes should be tested for radon. When elevated levels are confirmed, the problem should be corrected."
Consumers need to know about the health of a house they are considering
purchasing, including whether there is a radon problem, and if so, how to
fix it. The Home Buyer's and Seller's Guide to Radon provides practical
consumer information that every home buyer needs to know.
The preceeding was sponsored by THE RADON INFORMATION CENTER