The presence of radon has a stronger impact on the human body than we realize. Radon is an element filled with toxic radioactive particles such as alpha and beta particles and gamma rays. It is emitted mostly from uranium sources such as tap water or even the soil. Behind cigarette smoking, Radon poisoning (exposure to radon) is the second-leading cause of lung cancer with over 20,000 reported cases per year. Other effects of Radon poisoning, according to the AdvantaClean company, include asthma, chest pains, and feeling light-headed. While it is essential to take action against exposure to this toxic element, this action is easier said than done in that the presence of radon is rather ubiquitous ranging from the soil outside our homes to the water we drink. For these reasons, conducting a radon test is beneficial for our health, safety, and awareness of the substance within our homes.
It is important to emphasize the importance of being aware of the substance in our homes. Because radon is odorless and colorless, it is impossible for humans to detect the presence of the element, thus making radon testing kits a necessity. In essence, radon tests absorb any radon in the air and output a number that represents the level of the element that it presents. If this number exceeds 4.0 Picocuries per liter (pCi/L), that means there is an unsafe amount of radon in the air and it must be mitigated.
There are at least 2 methods to conducting a radon test in our homes: either purchasing a DIY Radon Testing Kit from a local home improvement store or calling in trained professionals in the field to investigate the home for radon. Each method has different strengths and weaknesses that should be taken into consideration. Through a more detailed observation of each method, we can see which procedure is more accommodating to one’s situation.
DIY Radon Testing Kit: DIY Radon Testing Kits can be bought at a home improvement or hardware store for about $40 and they provide a rather basic test for the presence of radon. AdvantaClean describes that “before conducting this test, it is required to keep all windows and doors closed for at least 12 hours, both before and throughout the test. The test should not be conducted in certain weather conditions such as high humidity and thunderstorms as it may impact the results of the test. The kit is placed on the floor and left alone for about 2 or 3 days depending on the size of the home. After following the recommended duration time (found in the instructions), the device is then sent to a laboratory in which the radioactive particles collected by the kit are converted into light particles which then determines the level of radon”. The results of these tests are delivered within about 2 to 3 weeks.
Professional Radon Testing: Professional Radon Testing, as the name implies, is conducted by Professionals or certified individuals in the field, mostly technicians. Professional Radon Testing consists of devices that are not found in DIY Radon Testing Kits such as Teflon discs and FTV 100 Multi-gas Detectors. According to AdvantaClean, the former “is used to test the radon ion itself while the latter is used to detect the exact level of radon gas in the home. While DIY Radon Testing Kits conduct their test by absorbing radon in the air, Professional Radon Testing checks for radon by testing the reduction in electrical charge as well as radon decay. If the technicians sense that radon is present, they can help address the problem by sealing cracks where radon is being emitted or by inserting radon vent pipe clearances which suck in the toxic substance and send it outside of the residence”. Similar to DIY Radon Testing Kits, the results of Professional Radon Testing are sent to a lab. However, the results of the tests are returned much quicker (about 24 hours). Due to the reliable nature of this method and the rapid delivery of results, Professional Radon Testing is recommended by most real estate owners and realtors.
Now, let us analyze the positives and negatives of each method:
Pros of DIY Radon Testing Kit: For those looking to save money, the DIY Radon Testing Kit costs significantly less money than Professional Radon Testing. Professional Radon Testing can cost up to $300 depending on the time spent testing for the element and the tools used to conduct the test. As stated previously, DIY Radon Testing Kits cost around $40, making it a far less expendable choice. DIY Radon Testing Kits may also be a more convenient option as it does not require people to check every room of the home. It is also noiseless, unlike Professional Radon Testing in which the Teflon disc makes a lot of noise as it sucks in the radon ions. For these reasons, the DIY Radon Testing Kit may be a more suitable option for those with neighbors or those who don’t like too much noise.
Cons of DIY Radon Testing Kit: While the DIY Radon Testing Kit is far less money than Professional Radon Testing, it is also far less reliable. Not only do the instructions need to be followed precisely, so as to avoid any false positives, but the device does not fully check for radon. There are two explanations for this. First, radon is most present in the basement of most homes due to high levels of uranium in the soil that can emit radon. If the DIY Radon Testing Kit is placed in the basement, it will not be able to detect radon on the upper levels of the home. The second reason why it does not thoroughly check for radon is because a typical radon test consists of testing for three different substances: charcoal, alpha track, and electret; all three of which are heavy sources of radon. A DIY Radon Testing Kit does not track electret, meaning the test may be seen as “incomplete”. Also, the kit is heavily influenced by high levels of humidity as high moisture in the atmosphere, especially during the spring and autumn months, can increase gas radon concentrations by roughly 15%. Because the DIY Radon Testing Kit does not test electrical charge reduction, the humidity may skew the results. Also, while Professional Radon Testing only takes about one day to see results, most results of the DIY Radon Testing Kit do not come until 2 or 3 weeks, thus making this method an inconvenience.
Pros of Professional Radon Testing: Because this type of testing is conducted by Certified Professionals, it should go without saying that the results are far more reliable. This is because Professional Radon Testing is more thorough as the devices test every room of the house, unlike the DIY Radon Testing Kit which remains stationary in a single room. Furthermore, through the use of Continuous Radon Monitor (CRM) tests, experts can determine if the humidity in the room had impacted the results, thereby avoiding the potential skewness of the DIY Radon Testing Kit. When selling or buying a house, it is best to check if the residence has been professionally tested for radon. Finally, the results of Professional Radon Testing are delivered much more rapidly, allowing more time to take action if radon is detected.
Cons of Professional Radon Testing: While Professional Radon testing provides numerous benefits, the deficits of this method should not be overlooked. While having Professional technicians check for radon may yield more authentic results, the process is over seven times as expensive as DIY Radon Testing Kits ($300 as opposed to $40). If repair is required, the cost could increase by over $1000 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that homes should be tested every two years for radon, so the expenditures will accumulate. Furthermore, some people may view the entire process as an invasion of privacy and more of a hassle than that of a rather simplistic DIY Radon Testing Kit. Also, even expert technicians can make mistakes, especially when determining the volume and impact of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC). However, even with these oversights in mind, Professional Radon Testing is almost always certain to yield more accurate results.
When determining which method of radon testing is best to conduct, the answer lies in the views of the individual conducting the test. For those looking for a cheaper, more convenient method of checking for radon or those who don’t see radon as a massive threat, the DIY Radon Testing Kit would be their method of choice. However, for those who are more meticulous and anal about checking for radon, it is best to leave the job to professionals, even if it costs more money. Whichever method is chosen, radon is a toxic substance that must be addressed, regardless of residence.