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Radon Testing

Many Minnesotans don’t know that their homes contain radon, and that radon can cause cancer. Radon testing is the only way to measure the risk. Here’s an article from the StarTribune explaining the risk:

Minnesota is a hotbed for radioactive gas radon
February 27, 2013   StarTribune

Apple Home Inspections provides radon testing with state-of-the-art electronic radon monitors. Results are available immediately and are presented in an easy-to-read graph showing the radon level at every hour of the test period. We’re trained in the proper placement and handling of test devices.

We don’t do radon mitigation

Apple doesn’t do radon mitigation, so we have no hidden motivation to find high radon levels. You can trust the results of our testing.

See radon levels in your county (interactive map)

Radon Testing

From the Minnesota Department of Health website:

What is radon?

Radon is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that seeps up from the earth. When inhaled, it gives off radioactive particles that can damage the cells that line the lung.

Long term exposure to radon can lead to lung cancer. In fact, over 21,000 lung cancer deaths in the US each year are from radon, making it a serious health concern for all Minnesotans.

Where does radon come from?

The soil. Radon is produced from the natural decay of uranium that is found in nearly all soils. Uranium breaks down to radium. As radium disintegrates it turns into radioactive gas…radon. As a gas, radon moves up through the soil and into the air you breathe.

How dangerous is radon?

Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the second leading cause of lung cancer (after tobacco) in smokers. Thankfully, this risk should be entirely preventable through awareness and testing.

Where is your greatest exposure to radon?

While radon is present everywhere, and there is no known, safe level, your greatest exposure is where it can concentrate – indoors. And where you spend most time – at home. Your home can have radon whether it be old or new, well-sealed or drafty, and with or without a basement.

How serious a problem is radon in Minnesota?

High radon exists in every state in the US. In Minnesota, 2 in 5 homes have radon levels that pose a significant health risk, and nearly 80% of counties are rated high radon zones. Some factors that further contribute to Minnesota’s high radon levels include:

  • Minnesota’s geology produces an ongoing supply of radon.
  • Minnesota’s climate affects how our homes are built and operate.

How does radon enter a home?

Since radon is produced from soil, it is present nearly everywhere. Because soil is porous, radon gas is able to move up through the dirt and rocks and into the air we breathe. If allowed to accumulate, radon becomes a health concern.

Two components that affect how much radon will accumulate in a home are pathways and air pressure. These components will differ from home to home.

  • Pathways are routes the gas uses to enter your home and found anywhere there is an opening between the home and the soil.
  • Air pressure between your home’s interior and the exterior soil is what helps to draw radon gas into the home via pathways.

diagram of major radon entry pointsRadon pathways into your home

A. Cracks in concrete slabs
B. Spaces behind brick veneer walls that rest on uncapped hollow-block foundations
C. Pores and cracks in concrete blocks
D. Floor-to-wall joints
E. Exposed soil, as in a sump or crawl space
F. Weeping (drain) tile, if drained to an open sump
G. Mortar joints
H. Loose-fitting pipe penetrations
I. Open tops of block walls
J. Building materials: brick, concrete, rock
K. Well water (not commonly a major source in Minnesota homes)

Air pressures into your home

Minnesota homes commonly operate under a negative air pressure, especially during the heating season. What this means is that the air pressure inside your home is typically lower then the surrounding air and soil, and this creates a vacuum that pulls soil gases, such as radon, into the home via pathways. Even if the ground around the house is frozen or soaked by rain, the gravel and disturbed ground underneath the house remains warm and permeable, attracting radon gas from the surrounding soil.

Other factors also contribute to air pressure changes in a home, including:

house

Stack Effect

wind

Down Wind Effect

vacuum

Vacuum Effect

As warm air rises to the upper portions of a home, it is displaced by cooler, denser outside air. Some of that displaced air comes from the soil. Strong winds can create a vacuum as they blow over the top of the home. Combustion appliances like furnaces, hot water heaters and fireplaces, as well as exhaust fans and vents, can remove a considerable amount of air from a home. When air is exhausted, outside air enters the home to replace it. Some of this replacement air comes from the underlying soil.

What happens after radon gets into the home?

Radon levels are often highest at the entry point – typically in the lower part of a building. As radon gas moves upward, diffusion, natural air movements and mechanical equipment (such as forced-air ventilation systems) distribute the radon through the home. Radon gas becomes more diluted in the upper levels of the home because there is more fresh air for it to mix with.

Greater dilution and less house vacuum effect occur when the house is more open to the outdoors, as during the non-heating season. This generally results in lower indoor radon levels in the summer compared to the winter.

Understanding how radon moves through the home environment helps to explain why timing and location are important factors to consider when conducting a radon test.

Three ways to protect you and your family:

  1. Test your home – obtain a test kit
  2. Reduce your exposure – reduce radon gas by taking action to reduce radon entry into your home
  3. Protect your loved ones – tell your family and friends to test so they are not exposed to a deadly gas in their homes.

For more information, see the Minnesota Department of Health website:

Minnesota Department of Health – Radon