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How can you find out whether radon levels in your home are unsafe? Learn about testing methods and what results mean. More....

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Getting Rid of Radon - How Do I Test for It? (Part II)
- by Bet Zimmerman and Pam Salois
Map of radon levels in CT

EPA maps of radon zones in the U.S. are at www.epa.gov/radon/zonemap.html.  Windham County is labeled as Zone 2, which means it has “moderate potential for radon.”  Levels in this region typically fall within ranges that are considered safe, but levels can vary from house to house.

Most experts recommend that every home be tested for radon.  There are many low cost, do-it-yourself tests kits for radon. You can buy them through the mail, online, or at hardware stores and other retail outlets.  They are simple to use and the results are reliable.  Simply purchase a test kit, and carefully follow the directions.  It only takes a few minutes to set the test up.  If you are selling or buying a home, or prefer to hire a professional, contact your state radon office to obtain a list of qualified testers.  The CT Dept. of Health Services webpage on radon is found at http://preview.tinyurl.com/lms6bd.   

There are two ways to test for radon – short-term and long term.  Radon levels vary from day to day and season to season. Therefore, a quick, short term test would alert you to a problem.  It will  help you decide whether you should follow up with another short term test, or go for a long term test, which will give you a better idea of year round radon exposure.

Charcoal canisters, alpha track, electret ion chambers, continuous monitors, and charcoal liquid scintillation detectors are the most commonly used devices. A short-term test lasts 2 to 90 days, depending on the testing device used.  Dr. Ginsberg and Brian Toal, Connecticut authors of What’s Toxic, What’s Not, recommend using two charcoal canisters.  Put one in the basement, and one on the first floor or lowest lived-in area of the house. At the end of the test period, mail the kit to the laboratory. They will send you the analytical results in a few weeks.

Long term tests stay in the home for more than 90 days. They will give you a better picture of average levels of exposure to radon. Alpha track and electret detectors are commonly used for this type of testing.  By running the test in the winter time, when conditions are worst for radon, you will get more accurate information about whether a radon problem exists in your house.

U.S. EPA maps show that radon levels in Windham County tend to be in the range of 2-4 piC/l.  However, as last week’s article noted, radon levels can vary from one house to the next.
EPA recommends taking action if tests show that the radon level is above 4 picocuries per liter (pCi/l).  Many people prefer to get levels as low as possible to minimize their risk. They may want to lower levels down to around 1 pCi/l.  If the test results for your house are between 1.5 and 4 pCi/l in the basement, you might want to retest to confirm. If the levels in the air are over 4 pCi/l, and you are on private well water, you should also have your water tested. There are no federal or state standards for radon in drinking water.  However, some experts recommend that if radon levels in water are over 5,000 to 20,000 pCi/l, you should install a water treatment system.   

If tests show you have a radon problem, fix it. There are several proven ways to reduce radon in your home.  Next week’s article will discuss what to do if you find that your house does fall in the five percent of homes that do have radon levels above what is considered safe.

For more information about radon in CT, contact the CT Dept. of Health at (860) 509-7367 or see their website at http://tinyurl.com/lms6bd

Pam Salois is an Independent, Authorized Green Irene Eco-Consultant.  See her website at
www.greenirene.com/PamWindhamCT. Bet Zimmerman is a Certified Environmental Professional. Archived Our Better Nature articles are at www.ourbetternature.org

References and More Information:


Originally published in the Villager newspapers on August 7, 2009


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